When Mike Zimmer was tossed over the bow of the Vikings longship at the beginning of this week, I was as relieved as anyone else. His time leading the Norsemen had more than run its course, and the comments of many players after his removal backed that up in spades. That being said, Zimmer's early time in Minnesota (2014-2017) produced some of my fondest Vikings memories. He dug this franchise out of one of the worst periods (2010-2013) of its entire existence. In that spirit, I present to you my top four Zim moments...
1st Down--11/8/15 vs. Rams: Midway through a season that showed great promise, the Vikes found themselves in a tight contest with the Rams. Early in the fourth quarter, Teddy Bridgewater was scrambling for a first down and got knocked out cold by a cheap-shot from a Rams defender (no surprise from a Gregg Williams unit). Zim's mic'd up reaction to the play is an all-time classic. Teddy would prove to be okay, but out for the rest of that game. With the score tied and headed to overtime, Zimmer decided to kick and "take the wind" on a blustery day. His defense got a stop and the offense set up a walk-off Blair Walsh field goal to win it. After the game, Zimmer was asked in the presser about the dirty hit to his QB. His response (regarding the opposing coach, Jeff Fischer): "If we'd have met on the street, there would have been a fight". When it came to Teddy, Zim never wavered with his support.
2nd Down--1/3/16 vs. Packers: At the end of that '15 campaign, the Vikings needed a win in Lambeau to clinch their first division title since 2009. From 2010-2014, they had been dominated at will by Aaron Rodgers & Co. But on this chilly Wisconsin night? Zimmer led his bunch into that house of horrors and came out with a hard-fought victory (and division title). It was one of the most wildly entertaining and satisfying games I've ever watched as a Purple fan.
3rd Down--11/19/17 vs. Rams: During the 2017 season, it seemed like all anyone could talk about was offensive wunderkind Sean McVay, the new head coach of the Rams. On this day at U.S. Bank Stadium, however, the old dog (Zim) still had a few tricks, stifling McVay almost entirely in front of the home crowd. I'll never forget Adam Thielen turning on the jets to put it away--on my birthday, no less. This was all part of an 8-game Purple winning streak and an 11-1 finish to the regular season.
4th Down--1/5/20 vs. Saints: 2019 was the last gasp of Zimmer's realistically competitive regime. A 10-6 record snuck them into the playoffs as the final seed but sent them to New Orleans to face an explosive Saints squad (Brees, Kamara, Thomas). Yet, Zimmer put together a masterful defensive gameplan (switching his edge rusher to the inside) and held the home team to 20 points. In OT, Kirk Cousins made arguably his biggest throw (to this day) as a Viking to Thielen, setting up the dagger fade to Kyle Rudolph. You like that?! Vikings management sure did, as this win saved Zimmer's job for another two seasons (for better or for worse).