NFL head usually coaches only last 69 games (nice), or roughly 4.5 seasons. Mike Zimmer has coached 121 games for the Minnesota Vikings, some with only one good eye. That adds up to just over seven seasons (including playoffs). Vikings ownership has shown a lot of faith in him. But why hasn’t there been any urgency until this season?
Since Zimmer was hired in 2014, the Vikings are 67-53-1. That’s good for a 55.8% win rate, eighth in the league during that time. The problem isn’t (usually) that they’re bad; it’s that they can’t get over the hump. And the Wilfs have been some of the most patient owners, considering the longevity in this front office.
This isn’t another “fire Zimmer” article. It’s a closer look at the front office. The success of the team ultimately comes down to them.
The Vikings have been the epitome of mediocrity over the past seven-plus seasons. I don’t care about the positive win percentage; they have not made playoff runs under Rick Spielman and Zimmer. I also have faith that they could turn it around, even though the front office’s patience hasn’t paid off yet.
Why haven’t they sold out for a playoff team? They made a half-measure by signing guys like Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, and Dede Westbrook, followed by the trade for Chris Herndon. Mostly, I thought these were good moves before I saw the team’s current state.
But it’s an urgency the Vikings’ front office hasn’t had until now, and we’re seven seasons into the head coaching career of Zimmer, the third-winningest coach in franchise history. How is this possible? It’s because most coaches don’t last as long as Zimmer has.
Every coach with a run as long as Zimmer’s has made significant progress and probably won a championship. Zimmer is the seventh-longest-tenured head coach in the league right now, and everyone ahead of him has a Super Bowl to their name. The best comparison to Zimmer might be Andy Reid during his stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reid coached 14 seasons in Philly but never won an NFC Championship, although he appeared in one. He finally got a win with the Kansas City Chiefs. He never brought the Eagles to the promised land, and he had some lower lows than Zimmer has so far. However, Reid has been a head coach for a lot longer than Zimmer. The question is, does Zimmer — or the owners for that matter — have the longevity in them to get over the hump?
The Vikings need to be urgent enough to turn things around or tear it down and rebuild. I think Zimmer and Co. can figure this out, but that depends on whether or not the owners will keep his leash loose enough to work out some growing pains on a team that appears to be stuck in an awkward teen stage.
Can the Vikings cobble together a roster next season if this year’s team keeps going down the path of losing winnable games? It’s infuriating as a fan, but I’ve accepted what the team is at this point. Any wins going forward are a pleasant surprise. However, the expanded playoffs give the Vikings a chance despite their 1-3 start. I’m just not counting on it. No one who knows anything about the Vikings would.
I think Zimmer could eventually get this team to a Super Bowl, but the team needs to make a change somewhere. Should the Vikings fail to win a championship this year and still retain the front office, they need to be more introspective and figure out why there are no significant improvements every year. They need to figure out if continuity is more important than urgency — or if they can finally strike a balance. They need to be better than perennially average.