If Mike Zimmer Has Lost the Vikings Locker Room, It Didn’t Show Sunday

Photo: John Autey

The Vikings captured their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon, securing a 31-23 victory over the Houston Texans on the road. Both the Vikings and Texans were winless entering play, so the postgame talking points were predictable. One of these 2019 playoff teams would emerge as a 2020 turnaround candidate and the other was going to end up in an even deeper (and more depressing) 2020 hole. Job security was being questioned at all turns.

Sunday’s victory for Minnesota was colossal and much-needed. Some needed it more than others but nobody needed it more than Mike Zimmer.

Sunday Was Must-Win

Beyond being winless entering the weekend, the Vikings defense had given up more points through three games than any other season under Zimmer’s tutelage. It was the Vikings’ worst start under Mike Zimmer, period. Recent extension aside (most coaching contracts mean nothing), there are always rumblings that Zim’s stern, old-school voice, tendencies and principles are falling on deaf ears inside a locker room that continues to get younger. 

If Zimmer had lost, nobody would’ve been shocked if he had lost his job. This type of thing happens all the time in the NFL and around pro sports. A coach that’s been around a franchise for more than five years and hasn’t won a Super Bowl can be quickly run out of town and made the scapegoat of a bad season.

Hell, Tom Coughlin was exiled from New York after winning the Super Bowl in 2011… Take one bad apple in the locker room (Odell Beckham) and throw in a disappointing 2015 season. Boom, fired four years later. Zimmer might not have been officially on the hot seat in week 4, but tensions were running high through three games. You could feel it in the press conferences (see above), the players and the fan base. 

Players Still Love Playing For Zimmer

Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson were all magnificent vs the Texans. In my eyes though, Sunday demonstrated stability, control and trust Mike Zimmer still brings to the Minnesota Vikings locker room. In one of the most chaotic weeks of franchise history, which included constant COVID-19 testing and multiple false-positives, the Vikings leaned on their veteran coach and leader. The players didn’t meet in person until Thursday, three days prior to takeoff for Houston. The excuses were already built-in and the postgame stories were as good as written… but Zimmer had his guys ready. 

The effort started from the opening drive and quickly became contagious in all three phases of the game. The offense exploded for 31 points and the defense gave up the it’s least of the 2020 season. Even the special teams contributed by forcing the only turnover of the game. 

Both teams were winless and on the verge of collapse… but when you watched the Texans Sunday afternoon, you saw a team that was worn out and jaded toward their coach, Bill O’Brien. When you watched the Vikings, you saw a team that was rejuvenated and yearned for a victory.

If there was any doubt who the leader of this team was, Sunday proved it’s still Mike Zimmer and the players clearly want to keep it that way. In Houston, Bill O’Brien isn’t so lucky…

Stephen Strom | Minnesota Sports Fan

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