When the Minnesota Vikings officially made Mike Zimmer an NFL head coach back in 2014, they certainly expected better results than what he’s delivered. After all, they didn’t pry him away from the Cincinnati Bengals simply to win a couple playoff games.
Last season, the Vikings bottomed out at 7-9—their worst record since Zimmer’s first year at the helm. Unfortunately for the 64-year-old head coach, he suffered a massive setback to saving his job on Thursday.
Because coming off another campaign that ended without a postseason berth, the Vikings will once again have to hit the reset button at a critical position on Zimmer’s staff. And unless Minnesota experiences a quick turnaround, don’t be surprised if the NFC North franchise finds itself in the hunt for a new head coach sooner than later.
Mike Zimmer has failed to deliver consistent results as a head coach
Mike Zimmer definitely brings a lot of positives to the table. But at the end of the day, the Vikings pay him to win Super Bowl titles. And in that regard, the former Bengals defensive coordinator has fallen well short of expectations.
After going 7-9 in his first year as an NFL head coach, Zimmer earned a playoff berth in his second season with the Vikings. However, Minnesota suffered a heartbreaking defeat against the Seattle Seahawks when Blair Walsh missed what should have been a game-winning 27-yard field goal near the end of regulation.
The next year, the Vikings failed to qualify for the postseason. In 2017, they pulled off the Minneapolis Miracle play before getting walloped by the Philadelphia Eagles (who went on to win the Super Bowl) in the NFC title game.
The following year, the Vikings experienced a dramatic drop-off on both sides of the ball. With John DeFilippo running the offense, Minnesota plummeted from 10th in scoring to 19th. Defensively, the Vikings went from allowing the fewest points in the NFL to ranking just ninth in that category. They missed the playoffs after posting a disappointing 8-7-1 record.
It seemed as though Zimmer turned things around in 2019 when his team finished second in the division and earned a playoff berth. Once again, though, the Vikings didn’t come close to achieving their goal of winning a championship.
Overall, Minnesota has never made consecutive postseason appearances in Zimmer’s seven-year tenure as head coach.
The Vikings head coach just suffered a massive setback to saving his job
Given the up-and-down nature of his team, it’s fair to wonder just how much longer the Vikings will continue to employ Mike Zimmer as their head coach. Despite his overall winning record and the fact he signed a three-year contract extension back in July, the fact remains that he simply hasn’t lifted the franchise to a championship level.
On Thursday, the 64-year-old head coach suffered a massive setback to saving his job with the Vikings with Gary Kubiak officially announcing his retirement. The veteran NFL coach has won four Super Bowl titles during his career, including one as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Kukiak joined the Vikings in 2019 as an assistant head coach and offensive advisor. He served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2020, which paid dividends for Minnesota’s two most important weapons.
Dalvin Cook broke out with a career-high 1,918 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns. Justin Jefferson looked like a 10-year veteran by totaling 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in a fantastic rookie season.
But with their 59-year-old offensive coordinator heading for retirement, the Vikings now have to name another person as their play caller. Unlike Bill Belichick—who has had Josh McDaniels by his side for years—Zimmer has been forced to find a new OC every year since 2016. So with Kubiak gone for good, that leaves a coach who should enter the 2021 season firmly on the hot seat in an unenviable position of trying to fill a hole that seems to open up every offseason.
Can Minnesota get back to winning with yet another new offensive coordinator at the helm?
For the sixth year in a row, the Vikings will have a new offensive coordinator. That doesn’t exactly spell good news for Mike Zimmer’s future in Minnesota.
Ironically, Gary Kubiak’s son, Klint Kubiak, who works as the team’s quarterbacks coach, could soon take his dad’s old job. But if Zimmer doesn’t feel comfortable promoting the 33-year-old, that means he’ll have to cast a wider net to find a new OC.
Ultimately, a lack of continuity at one of the most important positions on an NFL coaching staff can’t be good for the Vikings. If Kubiak’s replacement wants to implement a new system or doesn’t utilize Minnesota’s skill players in such an effective manner, that could lead to big problems for a unit that has finished in the top-10 in scoring just twice during the Zimmer era.
And let’s not forget that the Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the entire league last season. Minnesota shockingly finished 29th in points allowed after never finishing lower than 11th since Zimmer came aboard.
Overall, the continued overturn at the offensive coordinator position only makes Mike Zimmer’s job much more difficult. And if his team doesn’t get off to a hot start under a new OC, don’t be surprised if the Vikings finally cut ties with a coach who hasn’t come close to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Minnesota.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.