Mike Zimmer, Kirk Cousins Questions Will Answer Themselves

Photo: Harrison Barden – USA TODAY Sports

Mike Zimmer, Klint Kubiak and Kirk Cousins dug deep and finally found a better version of their offensive selves last week when the Minnesota Vikings went into newly-built SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and took the game from the Chargers.

We’ve been waiting for Zimmer to hand the franchise keys over to the offense so they feel empowered to aggressively go out and win games when needed but it actually happened last Sunday. Cousins, Cook, Jefferson and Thielen were all entrusted, at some point in the 4th quarter and even during the final drive, to keep the football away from Justin Herbert and the LAC offense.

Even when put in some precarious long-yardage situations, the head coach kept his offense in attack mode and was paid off with a victory. When it was over, the Vikings’ offense had the ball for 15:32 of the final 21:25, including all but 4:53 of the 4th quarter.

Once was nice but not enough.

But that was only one week. The Vikings are still a sub-.500 (4-5) football team. That’s because, until last weekend, they refused to take risks on offense when necessary. Instead, check-down passes short of the sticks and run plays in obvious passing situations became the norm.

Something changed last week. Even in the final drive, the offense was faced with multiple 1st, 2nd or 3rd down and long situations. Instead of playing it safe on offense, then punting and relying on defense, they targeted the sticks through the air and even went for it on 4th down to seal the game.

Most fans, myself included, need to see that offense-first mindset more than once before we will believe that Mike Zimmer & Co has finally seen the light. And even if the head coach continues to call on Klint Kubiak and Kirk Cousins to win him games, those two guys still have to prove they can deliver on a consistent basis.

Mike Zimmer, Kirk Cousins’ jobs is still on the line.

One big win did not save Mike Zimmer or Kirk Cousins’ job. Making the playoffs isn’t guaranteed to keep either guy employed under the Vikings umbrella. A deep playoff run is the only thing that will make Kirk and Mike safe for next season and beyond.

Both guys are under contract for next season but the Wilf’s have outs in either case. If Zimmer really did have an epiphany and what we saw last week from Cousins and the offense becomes the new expectation, then the playoffs go from “possible” to “likely”. And once in the tournament, there might not be a roster more talented than the one in Minnesota

If Mike falls back into his “just trust my defense” mentality or Kirk Cousins reverts back to “Check-down Charlie” then the losses will start piling back up. In that case, the Minnesota Vikings will be searching for a new head coach and QB this offseason.

Green Bay is a great test.

Lucky for fans and media, we’ll probably find out this weekend if the new Mike Zimmer is here to stay. The Green Bay Packers are coming to US Bank Stadium and winning will rely on more aggressiveness. Aaron Rodgers actually has a defense this season and the Vikings will need the pass and run game to beat one of the best teams in the NFC.

To beat Aaron Rodgers you need to keep the ball away from him in the 4th quarter. If you give him the ball late in a close game, Rodgers will beat you every time. He knows it, his offense knows it and your defense knows it.

We all expect this weekend’s game to be close. That means keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline late, just like Justin Herbert last week, is how you win. We’ll find out then if Zim trusts the offense and if Kirk trusts himself. Either way we should get a glimpse into what we can expect going forward.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan