Should Vikings Hit Rebuild Button?

Photo: @ESPNStatsInfo - Twitter

If you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan, there were no Christmas presents left under the tree for you today. We needed the purple to find one big win in their stocking but pulled out coal instead. On Sunday, the LA Rams walked into US Bank Stadium and ruined the holidays for all in attendance, keeping the Vikings at an arm’s distance for most a 30-23 Rams victory.

The game itself was a perfect short version of the Vikings’ season. No matter how close the score got, they couldn’t quite climb over the top or give themselves any sort of real momentum. They settled for field goals when they got close on offense and surrendered way too many key 3rd downs on defense.

Now, the Vikings are 7-8 and trailing the Philadelphia Eagles for the final wildcard spot in the NFC. But another underwhelming performance today has many fans and media wondering out loud what the end goal is. Can this organization and this culture realistically compete for a Super Bowl?

Should the Vikings hit the reset button?

Fans and media are often quick to call for such drastic measures as firing coaches, GM’s and selling off key players. In the Vikings’ case, there would be very little push back if the Wilfs decided to clean house. Mike Zimmer is now 65 years old and finding it more and more difficult to reach the playoffs with every season that passes by. Many are ready to move on.

But is it the right thing to do? Even after missing the playoffs in three of four seasons, Zimmer is 71-55 (.563) as head coach of the Vikings. Only Dennis Green (.610) and Bud Grant (.621) had better winning percentages than Zim does. Vikings history tells us that fans could be getting themselves into a classic “be careful what you wish for” or “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” scenario as they call for Zim’s job.

Money Problems

But even if the Wilfs aren’t sure that itโ€™s time to move on, they may not have a choice. The Vikings’ most important contracts just aren’t built to push this same group out onto the field for one more “make-or-break” season. They’ve already kicked their most expensive rocks as far down the road as possible.

Kirk Cousins is due a $45 million balloon payment that was attached to his contract when they last extended it before the 2020 season. In 2022, that payment comes due and the Wilfs have three options. They can a) leave the contract alone and allow Kirk to take up over 20% of the 2022 salary cap, b) extend him for another 2-3 seasons so that number can be stretched out or c) trade him away and pay a $10 million salary cap penalty.

Then there’s Danielle Hunter, who’s hurt again and due over $20 million next season, along with NINE total Vikings players who are scheduled to take up over 3/4 of the total cap space in 2022. In all, Minnesota is currently $11 million OVER the expected salary cap next year.

Prove it… or not.

2021 wasn’t just a “prove it” year for Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins because we’re a trigger-happy fanbase. On paper, the Wilfs set the 2021 season up to make or break their future plans. But now that time has come, do they have the fortitude to follow through?

Figuring out all of this short-term salary cap consternation feels like a walk in the park compared to completely rebuilding your football team from the QB and head coach on down. Hate him all you want, Kirk Cousins is the best non-Brett Favre quarterback we’ve had in Minnesota since Daunte Culpepper when he had Randy Moss and a good knee.

And Mike Zimmer wins way more than his predecessors. Do we really want to risk going back to the days of Christian Ponder, Donavan McNabb and Gus Frerotte? Leslie Frazier and Brad Childress? That’s risky business.

But with the playoffs nearly out of reach, the Wilfs may be forced into taking drastic measures. The fanbase wants more than what they’re getting right now and thatโ€™s usually when people get fired and/or traded.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan