This week, probably tomorrow, is an important time for the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve been a fan of the Vikings since I was four years old. I remember watching them lose a playoff game to the Baltimore Colts in 1968. The first time I cried was their Super Bowl loss to Kansas City. I’ve seen everything (on television) with the Vikings. The dominating Purple People Eaters; the playoff wins at the Met; every NFC Championship game. Part of me died when the Vikings lost four Super Bowls and now have names that describe their worst games (41-dounut; wide left, 12 men in the huddle, Blair Walsh.)
I’ve written before about the pain of being a Vikings fan. Today the Vikings finished their season at 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. The speculation is what to do with Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and Kirk Cousins. If Zygi and Mark Wulf asked me what they should do tomorrow, this is what I would say.
Get rid of all three—Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, Kirk Cousins (and get rid of him in a trade sometime before next season starts.)
I don’t take any pleasure in having to write that. I’d like all three of them to be successfully leading the Vikings into the playoffs.
I write as a fan. The following is why it's time for all three to go.
This is the hardest case to make of the three. Spielman became the Vice President of Player Personnel in 2006 and was promoted to General Manager of the Vikings in 2012. In my mind he is most responsible for the talent on the team through the draft, free agency, and trades. He’s also responsible for making key acquisitions that can lead a team to the Super Bowl.
Spielman has overseen 12 drafts and has made some outstanding picks. I’m thinking of Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Erik Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Justin Jefferson. He’s also made some clunkers—Christian Ponder, Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Gladney.
Spielman signed Kirk Cousins in 2018 and then signed him to an extension in 2020. This was his most controversial decision and saddled the time with limited salary cap space. He was never able to develop a quality offensive line.
The bottom line for me with Spielman is results. The Vikings have won three playoff games since Spielman became the Vice President of Player Personnel. That is not good enough. I see no reason to relieve him of his job and have him take another position in the Vikings’ organization.
I’ve always been a fan of Mike Zimmer and the toughness that he has tried to bring to the Vikings. Something was lacking with the Vikings when he took over as coach for Leslie Frazier. He had success as a defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, and my hopes he would elevate the defense to levels the Vikings experienced in the 1970s.
He’s had success. He’s won the third most games in the regular season for the Vikings. He’s had a 72-56-1 record for the Vikings. He took the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in January 2018 against the Eagles and had the top-ranked defense that season.
But he’s only won two playoff games. And the defense in the last two years has not been good. This year the defense is ranked in the bottom eight and was 29th in points allowed in 2020.
He’s also suffered from serious personal challenges. His wife died unexpectedly in 2009, and he’s had multiple eye surgeries.
I think it’s time for him to go. The last two seasons have been disappointing. His most recent selection of coordinators seemed to illustrate nepotism and an affinity for the old-boys network. I’m not convinced that his style of play—strong defense and a strong running game—fits the NFL in 2021.
And he hasn’t had much success since the playoff game against the Eagles. He’s only one two playoff games in eight years. This year his defense is ranked in the bottom eight in almost every defensive category. Last year their defense was one of the worst in the NFL.
His relationship with the media isn’t the most important factor for a coach, but Mike Zimmer has been very cranky this season.
I would love to sit down with Mike Zimmer and talk football with him. Though I don’t drink, he seems to be a guy with whom it would be a blast to have a beer. But his time has passed as coach of the Vikings.
The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins the year after they lost to Philadelphia in the 2018 NFC Championship game. Case Keenum wasn’t the long-term answer. He signed to take the Vikings to the next step—the Super Bowl.
He’s had success. He’s thrown for over four thousand yards and over 30 touchdowns in three of his four seasons. He led the Vikings final drive in their playoff victory over New Orleans. He is very careful with the ball and has always had a low number of interceptions.
Kirk Cousins is a excellent quarterback, but he’s not the type of leader who will lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl victory.
Missing the Packer game because of COVID was the final straw for me. For a person who is making 33 million this year and is the sixth highest paid player in the NFL, he should have gotten a COVID vaccine. I completely disagree with his statement he made at a press conference earlier in the year when he said that not getting a vaccine was a personal decision. His decision is not a personal one—it affects the Vikings and the Vikings fans. He could have gotten COVID if he had gotten a vaccine, but no one will know. His task as the quarterback for the Vikings is to do whatever it takes to play well in every game.
He failed by not playing in the Packers game.
The Vikings quite possible would have still lost if Cousins had played. But we will never know.
Not having an adequate backup is not a good enough excuse to keep Cousins. He is not worth the value on his contract. I would try to trade him and get as much of his contract as possible off the books.
I’m still hopeful that the Vikings will win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. I don’t think they will with Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, or Kirk Cousins on the payroll. It’s time to separate from all three.