It might take me a bit to get to my ultimate point in this article, but first, I have some things to say the readers and writers of Daily Norseman.
The day after the Vikings lost in Chicago, I wrote a piece for DN saying that Mike Zimmer should be on the hot seat. While some of our readers agreed with me, other did not and were quite vocal about it. Even the head of DN and another DN writer here threw me under the bus on Twitter. It was appalling to see how many of you readers laughed at me and ridiculed me for my criticism.
Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?
A season that began with ‘Super Bowl or bust’ expectations crashed down harder than the stock market in 2008. Mr. $84 million dollar quarterback looked absolutely horrified to play quarterback in an elimination game, in the last week of the season, at home, against a division rival. The defense let the Bears march down the field in the 4th quarter to put the Vikings season on ice, clearly putting on display another game where Mike Zimmer did not prepare his team for a big game. During the broadcast, Aikman talked about the Vikings failures in big games between that week 17 game, and of course, last year’s NFC title game. The lack of fight in this team in 2018 was disturbing, bordering incompetence, much like Mike Zimmer’s teams after the bye week in his first 5 years as head coach. 2-3? Please, stop telling me how good a defensive coach he is, or even that he’s an elite coach.
As a Vikings fan living outside of Minnesota, I’ve had to socially educate myself on Vikings fans. Who they are, what they think of their team, and how they approach being fans. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that very few Vikings fans actually have championship aspirations for this team. They’re happy just to be a fan, and if a coach or player is likable, they don’t feel the need to question their position within the organization.
If that doesn’t epitomize why the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, nothing ever will.
To be clear, until this franchise finally wins the trophy named after a head coach of a division rival, everything they do should be under a microscope constantly. Nothing they do should go without question, and not be on a short leash. This goes top to bottom for the whole organization. So I guess the only thing to do now is to look to 2019, right?
The 2 big losses in terms of players seem to be those of Anthony Barr and Sheldon Richardson. Honestly, a defensive tackle and/or a linebacker have not been the reason a team has or has not won a Super Bowl since the dinosaurs walked the earth, so any of you fans getting ready to use that as an excuse next season, grow up. When Barr missed games in 2018, the difference in the defense was minimal at best. I don’t really fault Barr for this, as he’s never been used right since he was Mike Zimmer’s (not Rick Spielman’s) first draft pick. For reference, go back and watch his performance against the Rams in week 4.
Restructuring of contracts has to be a pivotal part of this offseason. Lots of fans and writers speak of Everson Griffen taking a pay cut, which he should. The Vikings have stuck with him through thick and thin, and now is the time for him to pay the franchise back. But the player not spoken about as much to take a pay cut is Xavier Rhodes. This is someone labeled an elite corner that was constantly shredded and injured this year. Granted, Vikings corner’s don’t like to look back for the ball when covering receivers downfield, which is more on the coaching than anything else. Still, you want elite corner money, play like it. Rhodes did anything but in 2018.
The same thing goes for Linval Joseph. Other than his big touchdown in Philadelphia, Joseph did very little to impact the line of scrimmage. He was given a big contract to play the game in the opponents backfield. Where was that this year? Was it him? Maybe Mike Zimmer can answer, even though he didn’t answer enough questions about too many poor showings from his ‘prized’ defense in 2018. Why couldn’t his defense do to people what the Bears did to the Vikings TWICE? Let me know.
Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, and Tom Compton are three players who all need pay cuts, or to just be outright released from the team. It was clear all season they have no business being NFL offensive linemen, especially to protect a quarterback who doesn’t remotely look like an athlete when he tries to run. Cousins also fumbles more balls than anybody in the league, which makes rebuilding the offensive line essential. As was said in the show ‘Blue Mountain State’, “A quarterback is like being in a whore house, you’re only as good as your protection.” This will also require the Vikings to establish a formidable running game this year, which is where Gary Kubiak comes in.
Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco had their best seasons under Kubiak. Neither quarterback is classified as among the elite, so the fact they performed under him leaves the offense, especially Cousins, without any excuses. Thus, any offensive linemen brought in will have all the tools around them to be successful. Honestly though, New England changes players on their offensive line each year, and nothing changes. Why? Because their offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, knows what he’s doing, as does Belichick of course. It’d be nice if Zimmer and his assistants would do the same.
Let me be very clear, I firmly believe the Vikings have good players. I don’t necessarily believed they’ve been coached to reach their maximum potential. Too many times on defense, they don’t pressure the quarterback. Their season total of sacks is really inflated from their 2 home wins against Detroit and Miami. The games against Chicago and New England tell much different tales.
Offensively, how does a team with Cook, Thielen and Diggs not make the playoffs? Even the average NFL ponders this. A poor offensive isn’t a reasonable excuse, sorry/not sorry. The poor showings fall on COACHING. If Zimmer isn’t competent enough to know how to get the best out of his team on BOTH SIDES of the ball, then he isn’t fit to be the head coach, period.
As for Rick Spielman, there is no question he has brought some tremendous players to the Vikings, but has also made some baffling errors. Taking a corner in the first round of the 2018 draft was about the dumbest draft pick the Vikings have made since selecting Christian Ponder. Along with that, he let go of a quarterback that took his team to the NFC title, and paid $84 million for a quarterback proven to be terrible in big games, destroying the team’s cap space along with it.
This roster screamed of title contender before the 2018 season for a reason. Enough of the team is returning that they should have the same expectations in 2019. If they don’t, the Wilf’s must move on from Spielman, Zimmer, and many of the players. It’s very clear that their time is now or never. In the case of the Vikings, they still have NEVER won the Super Bowl, and it would behoove many within the organization to do so next year, or look for work elsewhere.