The argument against extending Mike Zimmer’s contract

(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer - Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer - Minnesota Vikings /

With only one more year on head coach Mike Zimmer’s contract, the Minnesota Vikings have not yet offered him a deal to extend his tenure with the team past 2019. The reasons for such should be clear.

It’s pretty simple. folks. Mike Zimmer has proven, perhaps as convincingly as any coach in recent NFL history, that he has a head for only one side of the ball.

And let’s be honest. Zimmer’s defensive “system” has helped the Minnesota Vikings beat many teams–but it has also been defeated by numerous different coaches.

Looking to compensate for an inconsistent and oft-times flagging offense in 2018 alone, the Vikings gave up 27 points and were nearly shut out at home by the lowly Buffalo Bills in Week 3, surrendered 556 yards in a Week 4 loss in Los Angeles to the Rams, and then yielded 27 first downs and 471 yards in New England to the Patriots in Week 13.

In a Week 17 “must-win” scenario to reach the playoffs against the Chicago Bears (again at home), Zimmer’s team mustered just 164 total offensive yards, went 1-for-11 on third down, and watched as Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy tied the Vikings’ defense in knots, rushing for 169 yards, passing for 163, and winning easily 24-10.

That’s not just bad, that’s a humiliating season sweep by a first-year coach and a division rival.

As much respect that is due for Zimmer has been sent his way. Former players and coaches make no bones about his talent for innovation and defensive game design, and even his “Old School” attitude and refreshing frankness gets some praise. “PrimeTime” Deion Sanders, himself, even loves to call his old coach up when he does well.

Zimmer is a true credit to Minnesota’s history with his efforts to not only tie current players to the community, but his interest in reaching back to include former Vikings players in his presentations and practices.

But entering his fifth offseason, after the way he exited his fifth regular season, Zimmer does not deserve to have a contract extension right now. Having said that, neither does Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman, no matter what his status is.

A Ceiling Of Purple Glass

The Minnesota Vikings have not played in the Super Bowl since 1977. In that game, Super Bowl XI, the Vikings were beaten badly by the Oakland Raiders.

It was Minnesota’s fourth Super Bowl defeat, after losing convincingly to the Kansas City Chiefs (IV), Miami Dolphins (VIII), and Pittsburgh Steelers (IX).

That was 41 years ago.

Mike Zimmer is the best coach the Vikings have had since Bud Grant. I would take him over Dennis Green and Jerry Burns.

However, Zimmer has his faults. One of them is attention to detail of the offensive side of the ball.

In the exploitation of that fault, he has seen his team fail at several turns. In the 2015 playoffs, against a stout defense of the Seattle Seahawks insude TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota mustered only 184 yards of offense and lost on the foot of the now-infamous Blair Walsh.

In 2016, Zimmer’s team started 5-0 after a myriad of misfortune, only to be exposed as a team that couldn’t block a team of girl scouts. This Vikings offense, lead by a consistently bludgeoned Sam Bradford, finished 8-8.

In 2017, Minnesota had it all. The misfortune (of course!), the maverick, (quarterback Case Keenum) and the “Minneapolis Miracle”, only to be completely embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship.

When I say “embarrassed”, let’s clarify in regard to this argument against extending a contract to a head coach. After starting the game with a drive to make it 7-0, the Vikings then gave up 27 first downs, 456 yards of offense and 38 unanswered points.

At that time, a lot of Minnesota fans agonizingly wondered: what in the world happened to Mike Zimmer’s number one defense–and when will something like this happen again?

As written above, it happened several times in the following season of 2018. Also, as an added bonus to Vikings fatalists–the team, again, couldn’t block anybody because they had neglected to focus on the offensive line!

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

What’s that they say about people who refuse to learn from history?

I would not suggest that Zimmer does not deserve to be the head coach of this team in 2019. Zimmer has indeed rescued a legion of fans from the depths of mediocrity and the likes of team leaders like Fred Smoot, Brad Childress, Tarvaris Jackson, and Christian Ponder.

But just as athletes have the pressure–and the opportunity–to prove that they have the will, talent, and focus to become champions with a “one season proposition”, I think Zimmer should find himself right where he is, as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings with the chance to lead this team back to the Super Bowl in 2019.

How the Vikings can learn from the Colts' offensive line rebuild. dark. Next

There should nothing else distracting him–or his team.