Very few NFL head coaches have had to deal with as many distractions in the last 4+ years as Mike Zimmer. In a lot of ways, it’s a credit to him that the Vikings have fielded a competitive team each year under his watch. However, it’s past that, and in a title-or-bust season, it has been an utter disappointment so far. We’ll get there in a bit.
Let’s go back to when Zimmer was hired in 2014. His first 2 seasons would be have his home games played in a temporary stadium. After 1 week into his first regular season, his star, Adrian Peterson, was suspended for the duration of the season. His third game, his presumed starting quarterback Matt Cassel broke his leg in New Orleans. The following week, in his first career start, Teddy Bridgewater got hurt, forcing him to miss Zimmer’s first game against the Packers. Finishing 7-9 was actually respectable, with 3 difficult losses in Buffalo, Miami, and Detroit leaving so many question marks, but so much hope for 2015.
2015 did not come without distractions either. The whole offseason was spent with the organization going back and forth with Adrian Peterson and his agent Ben Dogra, presumably over the fact that the team was not supportive of AP during the 2014 campaign. Zimmer actually handled it quite well, stating that, “Adrian can play here, or he can not play.” That statement really is what made the majority of Vikings fans buy into Zimmer in my opinion, realizing that this was someone who wouldn’t hold back from getting what he wanted.
2015 began with a crushing defeat to a poor San Francisco team. This was also foreshadowing of the fact that AP couldn’t run out of shotgun, and Teddy was not entirely comfortable playing QB from under center. This forced Zimmer to have to be very meticulous in his game planning, know those 2 liabilities, combined with a poor offensive line being an enormous liability to a team that was quite talented on the defensive side of the football. Finally, the season ended with Blair Walsh missing THAT KICK against the Seahawks. Horrendous.
2016, new stadium, defending division champs, drafted Laquon Treadwell, at the time considered by many the best receiver in the 2016 draft. All looked like it was heading in the right direction.
This was not the case.
Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL just before the season started, Adrian Peterson got injured in Week 2, and the offensive line had more combinations than a fast food value menu. Oh, and Laquon Treadwell proved and continues to prove that he wasn’t worth remotely close to a first round value. The neat part about that is Michael Thomas was drafted a round later by New Orleans. Funny how that works. Despite the team putting in good efforts more games than not, 8-8 was inevitable, but the poor showings against the Colts and Packers late in the season were very disturbing.
2017, Sam Bradford, done after week 1. Dalvin Cook, done after week 4. Naturally, the team goes 13-3. The week leading up to the NFC title game, most ‘writers’ and ‘experts’ picked Minnesota to win. Obviously, they were losing that game. However, the fashion they lost was more than disturbing, it was pathetic, and Mike Zimmer’s job security should have immediately been downgraded following that horrible performance.
This season, Kirk Cousins, Sheldon Richardson, SUPER BOWL or bust. That was what was thought of this team prior to the start of the campaign.
This team looks like anything but a Super Bowl contender, period.
In this year’s annual Chicago Horror Show, the Vikings came out flatter than the desert. First, on the 3rd & 1 on the opening drive, why would the Vikings run such a long developing play? Sneak the ball with Cousins, or run a fullback dive with CJ Ham (who needs to touch the ball more by the way).
Defensively, all that pressure the Vikings put on Matthew Stafford 2 weeks prior was not to be found. It looked just like Zimmer’s first season in Minnesota. Coming off a bye, in Chicago, zero pressure on the quarterback. Zimmer is now a putrid 2-3 coming off the bye, not exactly up to the standard you want from a team that is supposedly built to win now, with a roster that is allegedly talented.
I hate writing this because I happen to think Zimmer is a solid coach. Obviously, he wins much more than he loses. But when it really matters, and when the Vikings have a lot of things going in their favor, they come up flat. I’m not saying he should be fired after this season, but this season and next, he needs to be on notice.
The honeymoon is over. It’s time to put up, or shut up.