The 2020 season will be the biggest of Mike Zimmer‘s head coaching tenure. Three playoff seasons in five years with the Minnesota Vikings is fine, but Zimmer has had the same core roster for all five of those seasons. The inability to create back-to-back playoff appearances may be what kills Zimmer’s job, if expectations fall flat yet again.
What will you remember Zimmer for? If you asked a group of Vikings fans, there are a few answers we can assume would be mentioned. Defense may be the first that comes to mind. The Vikings defense was atrocious under Leslie Frazier. In 2014, Zimmer’s first season, the defense jumped up to 14th in the NFL. They got better from there, peaking in the 2016 (3rd) and 2017 (1st) seasons.
More recently, the defense has regressed, especially at the cornerback position. Xavier Rhodes‘ fall from grace is most puzzling, because he was a top-five CB in 2016-2017, but looked like a shell of himself the last two seasons. At 29 years old right now, he isn’t THAT old even now. Is Zimmer to blame for the lack of long-term consistency in his secondary?
Zimmer has been given a gift, in terms of defensive players drafted and acquired, but hasn’t done much with them. Trae Waynes was a first round pick and he was… ok, as a Viking? When healthy, Mike Hughes (2018 first round pick) hasn’t played…. ok?
Sheldon Richardson looked to be a steal, when he was acquired, adding a formidable DT to an already stacked DL. He was also underwhelming during his one season in purple. We thought getting George Iloka, someone Zimmer knew well, would be a sneaky good fit. He couldn’t make it beyond special teams in 2018.
However, Zimmer was here when we drafted Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, and Anthony Barr. You can argue Barr has been inconsistent but the other two are currently superstars at their respective positions. Anthony Harris has blossomed into one of the top-3 safeties in the league, after a rough start to his career. Harrison Smith, while not quite at the level he once was, is still a top-5 safety, too.
Zimmer’s influence on the roster continued in the latest draft when our Minnesota Vikings picked another CB, Jeff Gladney, at #22. Could karma come back to bite Zimmer and Spielman, if they keep failing to address other areas of need in the first round?
The Age of Inconsistency
Year-by-year, consistency has been an issue for Mike Zimmer’s Vikings (see table below), but it’s game-to-game as well. Even with the Everson Griffen situation, there is no reason the Vikings should’ve lost to the lowly Bills in 2018, let alone by 21 points. We also can’t forget the 34-6 beatdown at the hands of Indianapolis.
|Year||Reg SZN||Playoff||DEF Rank (YDS)|
The Mike Zimmer Minnesota Vikings have had issues getting the team ready for the “small games”. Remember the 31-38 loss to the eventual NFC champ Rams in 2018? That may have been one of the most exciting games I’ve seen during Zimmer’s tenure…. That game was just one week after the biggest dud of Zim’s time her, vs the aforementioned Bills.
But let’s not act like Mike has been some “big game god”…. because his struggles when the lights are shining brightest isn’t something to drool over either. The amount of times the Vikings have been blown out in critical games under Zimmer, is a major issue. With the exception of the Blair Walsh game in 2015-2016, all the Vikings season-ending losses have been blowouts. Let’s go through them:
- 2016: The Vikings were 7-6 heading into the aforementioned Colts game. They got blown out, then got eliminated the next week vs the Packers in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests thanks to two late touchdowns by the Vikings.
- 2017: Thirty. Eight. To. Seven.
- 2018: The Vikings are 6-4-1. They lose 24-10 in New England, don’t show up the following week in Seattle on MNF, then lose 24-10 again three weeks later against a Bears team that wasn’t even trying.
- 2019: Vikings lose by three scores to the 49ers in a game that, even when it was 7-7, never felt close.
Personally, I’m not upset with the Minnesota Vikings coming up short every year. I’m upset that we often don’t even show up. This is going to sound crazy, especially from a Vikings fan, but I would PREFER heartbreaking, last-minute losses, as opposed to blowouts..
So what will you remember the Mike Zimmer era by? For me this defense will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m tired of the late season blowouts. Do you think Zimmer’s job is on the line? Or do you think it’s more about Spielman not getting the right roster?
And don’t even get me started on the Offensive Line…
Jason Sellers | Minnesota Sports Fan