How long is the leash? How hot is the seat? What will happen to the Rick Spielman-Mike Zimmer regime at the end of the year? That’s the biggest question surrounding the Minnesota Vikings as they try to navigate the month of December and make a playoff push. What will be enough to satisfy the Wilf family and keep them from making any difficult executive decisions?
Everything hinges on the end of the season. Firings are probably in order if the Vikings miss the playoffs entirely. However, if they somehow sneak into the playoffs as the sixth or seventh seed, it rests on what they do once they get there. If they win a game, maybe the Vikings will run it back next year? If they make a deep run, extensions for everybody?
However, it cannot be ignored that preseason expectations in Eagan were much higher than sneaking into the playoffs as a seventh seed. The number of one-score games the Vikings have failed to finish, the inconsistent offensive output, and un-clutch defense are issues that begin with coaching. To be clear, this concerns the coaching staff as a whole, not just the head coach.
Now the Vikings find themselves looking at the playoff machine every day, processing the hundreds of outcomes that could decide the fate of many in the building. They currently have a 55% chance of making the playoffs. It’s a number that, by the look of their roster on paper, is way too low — displaying inferior coaching and mental mistakes all over the board.
Darren Wolfson and Judd Zulgad had a discussion on Mackey & Judd, a Minnesota-based podcast, about the rumors that the Wilf family is already starting to look at potential replacements for not only Mike Zimmer but also Rick Spielman. Their discussion suggests that their seats are hotter than we previously thought. The month of December is pivotal for the Vikings’ future.
Zuglad said, “There’s starting to be what I would describe as low-level rumblings about due diligence from New Jersey being done on potential replacements at both GM and coach.”
Wolfson responded, “I would say more so my end, coaching rumblings.”
To which Zuglad replied, “I can tell you right now that there have been some inquiries made internally about what about this … what about that if Rick was to be fired or step away.”
In general, it seems as if Spielman has done a fairly solid job as general manager, save for some panic trades and not quite landing a game-changing quarterback. But to be fair, a lot of GMs have trouble landing a franchise quarterback. But this might be more about how Spielman and Zimmer are connected at the hip, especially with their contracts expiring in the same year. The Wilfs might just elect to get a completely fresh start.
With it becoming increasingly more likely that the Vikings have a new head coach come the 2022 season, there are a couple of names that should be on every Vikings fan’s radar: Byron Leftwich, Brian Daboll, and Kellen Moore. The offensive trend that is taking over the league would suit the Vikings, given that they have mostly assembled their offense of the future.
It was a surprise that Leftwich didn’t get any interviews last year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator played a part in manufacturing a top offense that won the Super Bowl. Leftwich has shown his ability to work with a variety of different quarterbacks, and Tom Brady has expressed his love for the coach.
Brian Daboll should be the No. 1 choice for a team that is looking to draft and develop a potential franchise quarterback. Daboll’s work with Josh Allen has been nothing short of tremendous. He also runs an offense that would fit well with what the Vikings have to offer, given their personnel. He’d inherit Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, which makes the Vikings’ job that much more enticing.
The hottest name on the market seems to be Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He holds the reins of the hottest offense in football, with Dak Prescott and a myriad of weapons in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup.
As for general managers, while Spielman hasn’t been perfect. But he’s been way above average, hitting on a high percentage of draft picks and navigating the draft board well to get the best deals on players. If the Vikings moved on from him, there would be a greater chance of getting worse than of better. If they’re looking at moving on from Spielman, it suggests that Wilfs might want a new regime altogether.
The month of December will be telling for the future of the Vikings’ franchise. It’s a future that should leave fans simultaneously intrigued and excited.