Vikings Had Culture Problem Under Zimmer, Spielman
When Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman were fired from their posts as head coach and general manager of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, I expected emotional farewells from many players who had played for both guys nearly a decade. But that wasn’t at all the case.
Instead, we got what those in the media business call “money quotes” from all pro linebacker Eric Kendricks about a possible fear-based culture growing inside of TCO Performance Center under the Spielman/Zimmer regime. Comments from Brian O’Neill, the team’s best offensive lineman, weren’t any better.
#Vikings LB Eric Kendricks on moving forward: "I think just having that voice, no matter how big your role is, is important, to listen up and take each other's feelings into account. I don't think a fear-based organization is the way to go."— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) January 10, 2022
Eric Kendricks on his relationship with Mike Zimmer. Sounds like things weren't perfect.— Sam Ekstrom (@SamEkstrom) January 10, 2022
"I feel like there were some things left out there, as far as our relationship was concerned. That's something you have to ask him."
A lot has been said from Mark Wilf, players about 'collaboration' between players/coaches and the culture within the Vikings needing to change. Brian O'Neill addressed what that looks like, which to me sounds like players – especially young ones – needing to be empowered. pic.twitter.com/DbNmIhas08— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) January 10, 2022
There’s a lot to unpack here but it becomes clear in these quotes that Vikings players were ready to move on from the Spielman/Zimmer era. You know the Wilf family made the correct call when, afterward, two of your best and brightest players on each side of the field are calling for a culture change this blatantly.
Kirk Cousins, your thoughts?
Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, didn’t participate in any media sessions on Monday. And when he did sit in front of reporters after the win vs Chicago, Cousins refused to answer questions about Zimmer’s future or whether he wanted him back as a coach next season.
Let’s be real, if Kirk and Mike weren’t friends before the 2021-22 season then they certainly weren’t doing karate in the garage after Zimmer helped make Cousins public enemy #1 to media members and fans across the world who want to blame the unvaccinated population for all of this world’s problems. But Kirk, as always, played week 18’s postgame presser in a professional manner and that’s why he didn’t answer when asked his opinion on Zimmer’s future in purple.
Kirk Cousins did, however, talk about Justin Jefferson and his race to break Randy Moss’ single-season receiving record. He told media that the two of them talked about the record all week. While he knew JJ would handle coming up short in a professional manner, both were aiming for it. Earlier in the round of press conferences, Zimmer told media he didn’t care whether Jefferson broke Moss’ record.
#Vikings QB Kirk Cousins declines to answer when asked if he wants Mike Zimmer back and says: "The noise may be loud for your guys" regarding rumors on Zimmer's future.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) January 9, 2022
Kirk Cousins said he talked to JJ all week about trying to break Moss’ record.— Eric Smith (@Eric_L_Smith) January 9, 2022
Mike Zimmer said earlier he has no interest in individual records, only wins.
In hindsight, we shouldn’t be shocked that the 2021-22 Minnesota Vikings had a culture problem. We should have seen the divide when Mike Zimmer was chastising his unvaccinated players, most of which were locker room leaders. But as fans, it’s easy to put your blinders on in hopes that your team will contend. For media, it’s difficult to push negative headlines on a coach who is pushing vaccinations like no other coach in the NFL.
But now we know. The Vikings had a culture problem and needed a change at the top. Hopefully the organization is equipped and competent enough to pick the right leaders going forward. While the Wilf reign has been rather successful, they haven’t embarked on anything like this.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan