Vikings, Gophers, Mirror Image of Offensive Frustration

Photos: Fleck – Aaron Lavinsky (Star Tribune) | Zimmer – Matt Blewett (USA Today Sports)

Both the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Gophers are coming off of tough losses last weekend vs the Baltimore Ravens and Illinois Fighting Illini, respectively. If you watched both games in black and white, I’m not sure you’d know the difference between the two.

That’s because, when either offense struggles, it’s for the same reasons. Both teams rely too heavily on their running games, no matter the score or situation and lack trust in their QB’s and passing game. Each has a plethora of offensive weapons that they underutilize week in and week out. And both head coaches prefer an old-school, run-first and dominate the clock style of football.

Fleck and Zimmer are the same guy (on the field)

PJ Fleck and Mike Zimmer might be complete opposite personalities when engaging with media or going about their daily lives. But once the whistle blows and they’re standing on a sideline, they become the same exact person.

If either Minnesota football team jumps out to a lead, both head coaches will put the aerial offensive game plan on ice, in hopes of running opponents out of stadiums. That was on display last Sunday when the Vikings jumped out to a 17-3 first half lead vs the Ravens and ended up losing in overtime.

If either team falls behind, like the Gophers did 0-14 vs Illinois last weekend, there’s next to no chance they’re able to throw their way back into it. Both offenses take way too long to flip the switch into “oh shit” mode, instead of opening the throttle whenever necessary.

Neither will abandon the run-first game plan until the 4th quarter, which PJ Fleck admitted after their loss last week and Zimmer has mentioned countless times before.

Deny or Lie

That’s why both teams struggle in the same ways. Their offenses are too fucking predictable and boring. Fans know it, media knows it… but the head coaches and offensive coordinators for either club either deny there’s a problem or they act just as befuddled as the rest of us. I’m not sure which I hate more.

PJ Fleck told media this week that the Gopher offense and its game planning is fine. The problem is costly mistakes at crucial moments. But he fails to recognize the reason those mistakes are so crucial is because of PJ’s refusal to trust Tanner Morgan’s arm when he needs to. If you ALWAYS need a positive game script to be successful, penalties and negative plays hurt way more.

Mike Zimmer and Klint Kubiak, on the other hand, have told us for weeks about the need to get more aggressive offensively. They have said the same things this week. But it’s all just lip service. Because when rubber meets the road and the game hangs in the balance, they’ll choose the cautious approach every time, if it’s an option. Just look at last week in overtime.

Kirk Cousins’ arm forced OT on the final Vikings drive in regulation. Then, Anthony Barr made the defensive play of the game, batting a Lamar Jackson pass into the air and then catching it himself on the way down for an INT.

All Minnesota needed was 30 yards and a field goal. Instead, they went three-and-out: short pass, run, short pass, punt. After the game, Zimmer complained about the overtime offense, as if he doesn’t have a headset on that reaches the offensive coordinator. Come on Mike, we’re not that stupid.

Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator or Quarterback?

Here’s where the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Gophers’ offenses align once again. Nobody’s completely sure who deserves the most blame. There’s an obvious trust issue in the passing game for both teams. But whose fault is it?

Should Mike Zimmer and PJ Fleck trust their offensive coordinators more? Or should their offensive coordinators trust their QB’s more? Maybe, its Kirk Cousins and Tanner Morgan who are playing too conservative by nature… It’s possible, given both quarterbacks have no problem handing off to running backs way to often and both have been known to choose the more cautious short throws, even if deeper routes might be open.

Morgan doesn’t have the talent or statistics to be in the same conversation as Cousins. Still, Tanner has thrown for big numbers in the past (2019) and, much like Kirk with the Vikings, is a team veteran in his 5th year. Why pay Kirk Cousins $35 million if you don’t trust him. Why make Tanner Morgan the face of your program if you aren’t sure he can get the job done?

2x the frustration

Minnesota football fans are pissed off this week and for good reason. If you’re a fan of one team, you’ve been watching the same problems slap you in the face week after week. If you’re unfortunate enough to be a fan of both teams, then you’ve been hit with 2x the frustration on the same fucking topic. It’s like a bad offensive dream that you can’t escape.

Oh, and both head coaches suck at using their timeouts. That’s another commonality they can share over a glass of wine.

Maddening.

Eric Strack | (Angry) Minnesota Sports Fan