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A TED Talk, Week 16

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Yin and Yang

TO GO WITH AFP STORY: Lifestyle-HongKong Photo credit should read aaron tam/AFP via Getty Images

Hi kids, and Happy Boxing Day. Wait, we fought a war with England to specifically NOT celebrate Boxing Day, so suck it, Boxing Day. For those of you that celebrated Christmas yesterday, I hope everyone had a happy and joyous one, and your day was filled with merriment that you will fondly remember years from now. For those of you that celebrate a different holiday this time of year, my hope for you remains the same.

Are we still wanting to punch someone after the Monday Night mismatch? I would hope not, since football is just a game, and this time of year should mean a lot more than what humans wearing colored laundry do on a football field.

But we’re not here for philosophical life lessons, or deep meanings to things other than football, we’re here to talk about where the Viking stand, 16 weeks in to the 2019 season.

I’m not sure what the answer is, to be honest. Well, I know what it is short term, but I don’t know about long term.

In the short term, the Vikings are the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, and will need to beat three really good football teams to just get to the Super Bowl. Their chances to win the NFC North went out the window with a week four loss to Chicago, and two losses to Green Bay. In three critical division games, the Minnesota Vikings laid three eggs, losing whatever opportunity they had to win the division and get at least one home playoff game.

I don’t know that anyone but the most optimistic Vikings fan in the world thinks this iteration of the team will go on the road, win three games against the best the NFC has to offer, and punch their ticket to Miami. We all want them to, obviously, and they have enough talent on the roster to do just that, but the 2019 Vikings have been too inconsistent on the road to give us any kind of hope that they will suddenly get it together and run the table.

To me, that’s the Mike Zimmer era in a nutshell. Zim has gone 57-37-1 as a head coach, but when it matters most the Vikings fall short. Unless the Vikings are battered with injuries (2016, 2018), Zimmer has proven that he can coach the Vikings to at least 10 wins, contend and win the NFC North, and secure a spot in the playoffs.

Is that good enough though?

If you go back to the beginning in 2014, you can point to 2-3 games a year that you could probably label as ‘defining’, or ‘season altering’, or something similar. And with the exception of 2017, you could argue that the Vikings came up short in every game, other than the 2015 Sunday Night game in Green Bay that won the NFC North. And if we include 2017, they got boatraced out of Philly 38-7 with the Super Bowl on the line. A Super Bowl, you don’t need to be reminded, that was played at the Vikings home stadium.

Maybe I’m missing a game or two that the Vikes won that I’m not giving due credit for here. Feel free to bring it up in the comments, but my point is the Vikings fail more than they succeed in these situations.

When the Vikings play a team they should beat, they usually do. When they face a winning team with something significant to play for, they usually lose.

Is being the King of the Bad Teams good enough? Is being a 10 or 11 win team that can’t get over the hump good enough?

Is Denny Green, version 2.0, good enough? Because after six years, this really feels like the Denny Green era in many ways, except Zim’s baby is defense, where Denny’s specialty was offense. There’s been a quarterback carousel to this point, there’s a really great to borderline elite unit on one side of the ball, there’s a really good regular season winning percentage, and there’s a lot of season ending disappointment.

The short answer is no, it’s not good enough.

My Dad lived to be 86, and never saw the Vikings win it all. I feel like I could live to 86, if I’m so lucky, and won’t live to see the Vikings win it all. Heck, my grandsons could live to be that old and sometimes it feels like the Vikings won’t win it all.

But the long answer might be a bit more complicated.

This is really going to seem like I’m playing both sides of the argument here, but if you fire Zimmer, who do you replace him with? It’s really hard to look at the consistent success, the win-loss record, and the three playoff appearances in six years and say ‘see ya, Coach.’

Seriously, could Mike McCarthy top that? He was good with a Hall of Fame QB, but was pretty average without one. Ron Rivera? You think he’s better than Zimmer? Yeah, both those guys have been to a Super Bowl, and McCarthy won it. But McCarthy’s was nine years ago on the arm and hot streak of MVP and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Rivera’s was on the arm and legs of MVP Cam Newton. Have they been as consistent as Zimmer has over the last six years? What about another NFL head coach or coordinator?

How about college? Lincoln Riley? Urban Meyer, who will be linked to every college and NFL gig for the next 2-3 years until he accepts one, or he really doesn’t come back to coaching? Dabo Swinney? Nick Saban? Jim Harbaugh?

For what it’s worth, although OSU-homer me loves Urban Meyer, I think he would be a really bad NFL head coach. His approach and method works wonders for college age players, but like Saban, I don’t think it would translate well to the NFL...also like Saban.

And that’s my Yin and Yang regarding the Vikings. 10-11 wins and getting bounced in the playoffs isn’t good enough to keep the status quo, but it’s not bad enough to blow up and do a full rebuild, either. They’re in this purgatory between good (maybe even pretty good in some years) and elite that you can lay largely at the feet of the coaching staff and management, but the reason they got to good, or even pretty good, is because of the roster that management built, and the coaching staff that’s taken that roster and won a lot of games over the last six years.

Yin and Yang.

Is it better to dance with the devil you know, or the devil you don’t know?

For those of you that think it’s better to dance with the devil you don’t know, let’s go back to our Denny Green comparison. His 10 year tenure included eight playoff appearances, four NFC Central division titles, and two NFC Championship game appearances.

There was no Super Bowl win, but the Denny Green era almost always gave the Vikings a chance to get to the Super Bowl. In other words, Green went to the playoffs 80% of the time, and made the NFC Championship 20% of the time. At least having a shot is better than having almost no shot.

You could say the same with the Mike Zimmer era to this point. At least they have a shot. Including 2019, Mike Zimmer has gone to the playoffs 50% of the time, and through 2018, the NFC Championship 20% of the time, with the 2019 playoffs to be determined.

Green resigned with one game left in 2001, when he was probably going to be fired. Mike Tice took over as interim coach for the last game of the 2001 season, and coached until the end of 2005. Brad Childress coached from 2006 through part of 2010, then Leslie Frazier took over, was named permanent head coach in 2011, and lasted until the end of 2013.

In the 12 years from 2002-2013, the Vikings went to the playoffs four times, won the NFC North twice, and went to the NFC Championship once. Tice went 1-1 in the playoffs, Chilly went 1-2 with the NFC Championship game appearance, and Frazier went 0-1. That’s two playoff wins in 12 years.

That’s what almost no shot looks like.

Save for the Zombie Brett Favre year of 2009, that era of Vikings football was an abject failure, other than an individual player accomplishment here or an exciting game there. If you want a new coach, be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

They have almost no chance to win the Super Bowl when you look at the daunting task in front of them, but they are in the playoffs, so they have a better chance than the 20 teams that won’t make the playoffs.

Yin and Yang.

Do you dance with the devil you know, pay for some more dance lessons in terms of a roster tweak or two, and see if you can’t win The Dance in the next year or two before you look for a new dance partner?

Or do you end the Ximmer era now because you feel it won’t get any better, dance with a devil you don’t know, embrace the seismic changes that will occur with a coaching changer, and hope the new guy takes you to The Promised Land?

I’ve been going back and forth on this for days, because I don’t know.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.