Mike Zimmer’s Job Dependent On His Trust For Kirk Cousins

PHOTO: JERRY HOLT – JGHOLT@STARTRIBUNE.COM

Week 5 at home vs an injury-riddled Detroit Lions team was supposed to be an easy win for the Minnesota Vikings. But that’s not how reality played out. When Dan Campbell’s kneecap biters converted a two-point conversion to take a 17-16 lead with just 37 seconds remaining, it looked as if the end of Mike Zimmer’s time in Minnesota might be upon us.

Zim’s 2021 squad was seconds away from losing to an 0-4 Lions team at home, a loss that would have dropped the Vikings to 1-4. At that point, heads would’ve been rolling and Zim’s neck would’ve been at the top of the chopping block. And to make matters worse, any hope of victory was pinned to the arm of Kirk Cousins, the QB he refuses to put full trust in.

Given what we know about the Minnesota Vikings head coach, positivity was probably running pretty low at this moment.

But then the impossible happened…

Three more seconds ticked away by the time Kirk Cousins snapped the ball at his own 18-yard-line. But 33 seconds and two timeouts proved to be plenty of time for Kirk to work. Three plays and two 20-yard completions to Adam Thielen later, the Vikings were in Greg Joseph field goal range at the Lions’ 36 yard line.

Getting into range was only half the equation, of course. Since arriving in Minnesota, Zimmer has witnessed the local field goal kicking curse first hand. He’s seen games and seasons fall apart on the foot of shaky kickers. Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, this same kicker missed a much shorter attempt that would’ve meant victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

But against all odds, Greg Joseph put this 54 yarder through the uprights with ease, allowing the Vikings to narrowly escape with the win and their dignity. For Zimmer, he left with another week of secure employment. Cousins was certainly emotional after the win, grabbing and pushing his head coach in a way that will be talked about and over-analyzed long after the season is complete.

It didn’t go down as expected but the Vikings’ win over Detroit will still count in the standings. And should (2-3) Minnesota turn their season around, this could be one of the more impactful victories on their record. Kirk Cousins (with some help from Greg Joseph) saved Zimmer’s job and the Vikings’ season on Sunday.

QB Trust issues

Mike Zimmer’s QB trust issues are well documented. It’s obvious in the Vikings’ weekly game-planning and in-game decision-making that Zim wants to rely on his defense and a complimentary rushing attack to win games. Even when that’s not the best part of his team. But when it comes to Kirk Cousins, the distrust has run deeper.

Zimmer and Cousins have struggled with their relationship-building skills since unionizing under the Vikings umbrella before the 2018 season. Just ask 2020 Everson Griffen. He’ll tweet all about it.

Admittedly, life is much easier in the NFL when a team’s head coach and QB are on the same page, something those two have never really experienced. But with careers on the line for both guys, extra emphasis and effort has been placed on their relationship this season.

Mike Zimmer has mentioned film study sessions that the duo sits down for on a weekly basis, something new to this season. But until Zim was forced to put the game in Kirk’s hands last weekend, he refused to do so. When he did, victory fell into his lap.

Zimmer trust fall?

If it weren’t for final drive heroics of Kirk Cousins, Mike Zimmer might be out of a job. Now that’s the type of moment that should bring these two together. If the Vikings are going to make a serious playoff push, Mike will have to lean on his quarterback, especially with Dalvin Cook’s injured ankle.

Hopefully, Kirk’s efforts over the weekend will push Zim into a trust fall that allows Cousins and Clint Kubiak to open up the offense. Even with the defense continually getting better as the season goes on, trusting Kirk Cousins to throw touchdowns is still the best chance the Vikings have at catching the Packers in the NFC North and eventually making a playoff run.

At 2-3, there’s no time left for conservatism on offense. The Vikings need to win a bunch of games and they’ll need to score points eventually. As an offense, Minnesota has moved the ball much more efficiently behind the arm of Kirk Cousins. Let him lead us to the promise land.

Short-Term Job Security

Unless this team implodes in Carolina on Sunday it’s hard to envision a scenario where Mike Zimmer is fired during the Week 7 bye. He’ll likely have his chance to return the Minnesota Vikings back to playoff relevancy but all bets are off when the season eventually ends.

This roster has been built largely in the head coach’s vision so it’s time for him to playoff or shut up. Realistically it’s about time the Vikings make another run to the NFC Championship. But for now, his team team needs to crawl back to a .500 record next week in Carolina.

Hopefully, Zim trusts Kirk Cousins to get that done.

Cooper Carlson | Minnesota Sports Fan