Wilfs Still Wavering on Mike Zimmer’s Future

Photo: Star Tribune

Mike Zimmer has been the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings since 2014. But 7.88 seasons into his tenure, the wheels are on the verge of falling off. And if they do, the crosshairs of blame will fall on four major players in particular: Kirk Cousins, Klint Kubiak, Rick Spielman and of course, Zimmer himself.

But the playoffs are still within reach and, because of that, Vikings ownership has been rather mute on what their plans are after the season. That’s because, according to Ian Rapoport (NFL.com), the Wilfs aren’t sure what their plans are yet either.

Vikings: After a down year in 2020, the Vikings entered the season needing to improve. Instead, it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions, with the latest blow coming with Kirk Cousins testing positive for COVID-19 and missing Week 17. Mike Zimmer appears to be one of the coaches whose fate has not yet been decided, per sources informed of his situation. Winning out and making the playoffs would go a long way toward solidifying his status. Miss the playoffs — for the fifth time in eight seasons — and it would be a decision left to Minnesota’s ownership.

Ian Rapoport (NFL.com)

Wilf’s Hesitation Speaks Volumes

The Wilf family does NOT want to fire Mike Zimmer or Rick Spielman. That has become obvious. I can’t blame them. As fans, we always want more and that’s a good thing. But as owners, you’d see the situation differently. The Spielman/Zimmer era has pushed the Minnesota Vikings organization into a stratosphere of respect around the NFL that we rarely see in Minnesota sports.

Other professional teams in Minnesota all struggle to reel in high-level talent in free agency. That’s because, to most pro athletes, this state is a frozen wasteland for 12 months out of the year and the “Twin Cities” might as well be the North Pole.

But for whatever reason, the Vikings soil that narrative. Patrick Peterson all but forced his way onto the roster last offseason and signing high-profile free agents is something that’s become an expectation every summer. Under Spielman and Zimmer, winning is the only real concern the Wilf family has. And that’s important because it wasn’t always the case.

2005: Winning Takes Back Seat

Here is new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Vice President Lester Bagley in 2005 (via ESPN), as they were traveling Minnesota on a damage control tour. The Vikings were at the end of a Mike Tice coaching era that brought on the infamous Love Boat and Whizzinator scandals, among a plethora of other issues.

“You have to go through some tough love sometimes,” he said in St. Cloud. “My goal is to win championships. But now, my goal is to make sure the organization does this with class.”

After returning to his office in Eden Prairie, Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs, offered this perspective:

“Our ownership was as shocked and appalled by the behavior that was reported as our fans were. The way Mr. Wilf is looking at it is it’s a chance to set a new course, a new tone and build a strong foundation. That’s really the only thing we can do, look at it as an opportunity to get it right.”

ESPN (Oct. 19, 2005)

Expectations Change

Under the Wilf family, the Vikings built a stadium and practice facilities that rival anyone in the NFL. They’ve also become one of the more respected organizations in the league, in part due to what the front office and head coach have instilled inside the locker room since 2014.

But this is now a franchise that needs to take another step. They need to move out of “respected organization” and into a “Super Bowl winning organization”. To do that, another major change might be in order. But the Wilfs are hesitant to start over, knowing the grass may not be greener on the other side.

Under Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings have just 3 playoff appearances in 7 years a statistic that’s dangerously close to getting worse. And if the playoffs pass us by again, Mark and Zygi Wilf may be forced to fire Zimmer and/or Rick Spielman. But it’s become clear that’s not the route they’d like to travel.

Playoffs Save Jobs

Just two games remain of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021-22 season but they have everything, including a playoff birth, still in front of them. A loss vs the Green Bay Packers tonight, paired with a Philadelphia Eagles win this afternoon, however, would eliminate those chances.

If they somehow find their way into the tournament, the Wilfs would love nothing more than to run it back again for 2022-23. But if not, their hand could be forced.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan