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The Trials And Tribulations Of The Mike Zimmer Era

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Being a head coach in the NFL isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. But seriously?

Minnesota Vikings v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When Mike Zimmer was named the head coach of the Vikings in 2014, fans had a reasonable sense of hope that maybe, finally, the Vikings got a guy that could take this team to the promised land. His resume was impeccable as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator, and his hiring felt like a turning point for this franchise.

Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman seemed to be on the same page from day one, and in 2014 they seemed to hit the jackpot in the draft, getting Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, their elusive QB of the future. The plan was to let Bridgewater sit behind veteran Matt Cassel for 2014, and rely on Adrian Peterson to carry the share of the offensive load. Combined with a rebuilt defense under Zimmer, it was thought, this team would be a serious contender.

That plan lasted all of one game. Right after the Vikings season opening win and coaching debut for Zimmer, a 34-6 trouncing of the St. Louis Rams, Adrian Peterson was deactivated after he was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child. He would not see the field for the rest of 2014.

Five quarters and a handful of plays later, Matt Cassel broke several bones in his foot during the Vikings week three game against New Orleans. That saw the debut of Teddy Bridgewater, who ended up going 6-7 as a starter, and the Vikings see-sawed to a 7-9 finish, never really finding an answer for the season long Peterson absence while Bridgewater was learning on the job.

2015 was really the only season that Mike Zimmer’s vision for this team really came close to fruition. Teddy Bridgewater was now the quarterback of the present, the Vikings defense had one year in Mike Zimmer’s system, and Adrian Peterson was back. Even with season ending injuries to C John Sullivan and RT Phil Loadholt in the pre-season, the Vikings offense was good enough, as Peterson once again led the NFL in rushing, the defense was a top 10 unit, and the Vikings went 11-5 and clinched the NFC North, beating Green Bay at Lambeau on the final week of the season.

They came within a chip shot field goal of beating Seattle in the Wild Card round, but yeah whatever Blair ‘I wouldn’t Change A Thing’ Walsh. Douche.

Last year was one of the weirdest seasons in Vikings history. 2010 is still probably the weirdest, what with the Metrodome roof collapsing and all, but 2016 is right up there. I mean, where do we even begin?

How about before training camp even started? Phil Loadholt, who was supposed to come back from his Achilles injury, retired two weeks before camp began, blowing up an offensive line rebuild plan before it even got off the ground. It was the first in a series of hammer blow injuries to the offensive line that never allowed them to recover.

Once training camp began, RG Mike Harris, who was arguably the Vikings best offensive lineman in 2015, went on IR for an issue that was never really disclosed, and he never saw the field. John Sullivan never fully recovered and he was released, and three weeks into the season starting LT Matt Kalil went on IR. Two weeks after that starting RT Andre Smith went on IR, and just over a month later, Jake Long, who was signed during the week six bye to replace Kalil, also went on IR.

But that was nothing compared to two other injuries. With less than a week before the regular season began, Teddy Bridgewater’s knee was shredded in a non-contact injury during practice, and he was put on season ending IR. Some 72 hours later, the Vikings made an absolutely stunning move in a trade for Sam Bradford.

It seemed to be a genius move, as the Vikings started 5-0, and Bradford, the Vikings, and their brand new stadium were the toast of the NFL. But as the offensive line injuries piled up, the offense began to sputter, the defense showed some cracks as they were on the field a lot during the second half of the season, and Minnesota limped home to an 8-8 record.

And during a good portion of all this, Mike Zimmer was dealing with a detached retina that would end up encompassing eight surgeries, one missed game, an off season OTA, and he very nearly lost the vision in his right eye. During the off-season, there was a contentious debate about who the Vikings QB would be moving forward, and Minnesota parted ways with Peterson, who signed with New Orleans.

2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse.

Hold my beer, kids.

Things seemed to come together in week one, as Zimmer’s eye was healed, Bradford carved up the Saints, Peterson was stonewalled, and Minnesota FINALLY looked like they were going to fulfill the promise that Zimmer’s hiring brought back in 2014.

And now, we have The Great Sam Bradford Knee Saga Of 2017. With Teddy Bridgewater waiting in the wings and eligible to come off the PUP list in a month, it seems set up for Teddy to swoop in to the rescue, save the Vikings season, and cap his comeback with the most improbable of endings.

Yeah, put that in your sock and eat it. Ain’t happening. This is the Vikings, my man.

With Case Keenum the quarterback for at least a month, the Vikings will lucky to be 3-5 at the break. And with a brutal second half schedule behind either a QB with a bad knee, or one that hasn’t played in 18 months, 8-8 is starting to feel like the ceiling for this team, when just two weeks ago it felt like the floor.

It amazes me that Zimmer’s record with the Vikings is 27-23.

This damn team.