Many of you will not like some of the things I’m about to say here. Let me be VERY clear: there are few people in the world who want to see the Vikings win a Super Bowl more than myself. While I do spew criticism, I also tried to make suggestions. Honestly though, I don’t really care what people think. I spend hours after Vikings games watching every play on coaches film via NFL Game Pass, and know that my opinions come from hours of deliberate and careful studying. Thus, no matter how critical people are of my opinions (just ask Eric Thompson how he felt after my piece last year calling for Mike Zimmer to be thrown under the bus), I’m not going to sway from calling it how I see it, period.
When players, coaches, fans, and media personnel involved with the Minnesota Vikings came away from the win over Denver with happiness, all I could think was one thing: “How did we get to this point?”
Perhaps spending the duration of the game seething in anger, it kept me even headed after Noah Fant couldn’t haul in Brandon Allen’s final pass. Yet, here I was after the game, and to this point, flabbergasted at the joy in the game’s aftermath around this team going into the bye week.
For a Vikings team that not too long ago played in the NFC Championship, and overpaid a .500 quarterback a lot of money to get them beyond that, with mostly the same roster, having to gut out a win against a Broncos team with a quarterback making his second career start, a first time head coach, and a roster that needs new players at a lot of positions, really isn’t where the Vikings should be. Well, at least if you have high standards for the team’s performance, which is quite clear that many seem to not.
I’m going to emphasize once more what I started with. I hate that I’m so often critical of this organization. However, as someone who has spent a lot of time, energy, and most importantly, money, related to the Minnesota Vikings, I’m not going to mince words now, or ever. This win left me with more questions about this team than answers, and verified some thoughts I’d shared previously as well.
I wonder, what exactly is Mike Zimmer getting paid to do? This defensive ‘mastermind’ can’t get his team to beat Chase Daniel, or Matt Moore, and made Brandon Allen look like the second coming of Joe Montana. He’s supposed to be a ‘whisperer’ of defensive backs. Yet, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mike Hughes, three 1st round picks, continue to look nothing short of horrendous each week trying to defend even mediocre receivers whether in man-to-man or zone coverage, and Mackensie Alexander hasn’t looked a lot better either. I’ve asked this here before, and I’ll ask again: Has Mike Zimmer never taught these guys how to look back for the ball, or how to play it when they do? Vikings corners have TWO interceptions in 11 games, TWO! That’s it! The Vikings are 25th in pass plays allowed of 20+ yards, that’s an enormous problem. When that happens with such frequency (40 times in 11 games), that is COACHING every bit that it’s the players.
Honestly, watching coaches like Belichick and Harbaugh have all kinds of players excel on the defensive side of the ball, no matter who suits up, it makes me wonder even more what it is Zimmer does so well as a defensive strategist with players he has chosen year after year. It’s tiring to watch.
Is Zimmer getting paid to manage game situations? If so, he does a horrific job of it on so many occasions. The timeout with 10 seconds left vs. Denver? The last two defensive plays against Kansas City? Or my favorite, having Nate Meadors covering Geronimo Allison on his touchdown for Green Bay in Week 2? His clock management has never improved, and the situational awareness of his team this year has significantly decreased. Need proof? The Vikings are now a middle-tier team in terms of third down defense, something they once thrived on. That in itself should be extremely alarming.
What makes it worse in terms of the standard around the organization, people are happy that Zimmers’ win over Denver tied him with Dennis Green for the second best winning percentage among Vikings coaches in their history, behind only Bud Grant. Among those three coaches, how many Super Bowls were/have been won? Zero, but they’re viewed through the collective lens of ‘Minnesota Nice’, so they’re revered to the point where it’s borderline repulsive to those of us who want that final result more than anything else.
Currently, Zimmer is 2-3 following a bye week as head coach of the Vikings. If they lose to Seattle, and go to 2-4 in his tenure, will that make the Wilfs begin to really ask questions? Personally, I hope so (again, that’s if the Vikings lose, I WANT THEM TO WIN), but probably not. It seems quite clear that this is Zimmer’s job through at least the 2020 season unless he walks away on his own accord.
It can’t ALL be on the coach however. Don’t worry, I made room for the players.
I’ve said time and time again on that Kirk Cousins can’t be trusted for four straight quarters of competent football. While that has not been the case in every game this year (the wins against Detroit and Philadelphia most notably), it’s been that way in each loss, and for an entire half against Denver. Yet, media personnel all across the country are talking about him being in the MVP conversation? Stop. He’s extremely lucky the Vikings sometimes run the ball well, because they certainly don’t against at least a semi-well coached defensive front (Chicago, Kansas City, Denver), but the Vikings have fizzled out against well-coached teams since the dawn of time, so I guess that’s nothing new, right?
Cousins is having his best year by far, without question, as is Dalvin Cook. But how many more bad games can the offensive line continue to have? Denver more than doubled their weekly sack average, and didn’t let the Vikings offensive line get ANY movement trying to run the ball. On the strip sack of Cousins, Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein looked like they were actually trying out to be the actors in a remake of ‘The Three Stooges’, my goodness. Does anyone actually believe this offensive line can hold up against Seattle? San Francisco? New Orleans? While Garrett Bradbury has improved, if someone can show me what he’s done to prove he was worth a first round pick, please show me what he did against Grady Jarrett, Kenny Clark, & Chris Jones.
Scheme suggestion: on 3rd down defense, the line should look like this left to right (facing from the offensive side): Anthony Barr, Stephen Weatherly, Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen. Barr is much better playing downhill, and his speed on an edge rush and/or contain could prove a big difference against faster quarterback. Play Jayron Kearse where Barr would play as a linebacker, and go from there. Kearse clearly covers better than Barr. Also, please give Holton Hill more playing time, this guy has proven he can play, and there’s no way he could play worse than the current corners Zimmer chooses to field most of the time, right?
Honestly, I hope I am wrong about not believing that this team can will a Super Bowl as they are right now, but for so many reasons stated, it’s very difficult to see based on the first 11 games. They’ve done enough to show they’re good, but not elite. Far from it as far as anyone with common sense can see.
And that’s what I want, an ELITE, Super Bowl winning team, as you all should too.