Mike Zimmer is severely underappreciated by too many people

The expectations of the Minnesota Vikings are much higher these days thanks to head coach Mike Zimmer.

In 2013, the Minnesota Vikings were a joke of a team. The offense was more run-focused than it is today, passing the ball was a hilarious fantasy, and playing defense was optional.

Minnesota began the 2013 season by losing seven of their first eight games and it was a string of matchups that just featured one disaster after another. The Vikings ended the year with a 5-10-1 record that included a tie in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers, who were led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Minnesota’s head coach at the time, Leslie Frazier, was well-liked by just about everyone in the organization. But there’s a reason that the phrase “nice guys finish last” exists. If not for Adrian Peterson playing out of his mind in 2012, Frazier would have had one of the worst head-coaching tenures in Vikings history.

Where would the Minnesota Vikings be without Mike Zimmer?

Unsurprisingly, Minnesota fired Frazier after their terrible 2013 season, and it wasn’t long before the team was bringing in several head coaching candidates for interviews.

The decision reportedly came down to Dan Quinn, Todd Bowles, and Mike Zimmer. The job ended up going to Zimmer and the other two have been hired and fired as head coaches in the league since they all interviewed for the Vikings opening.

Under Zimmer in 2014, Minnesota improved their win total by two compared to the 2013 season. By the 2015 campaign, the Vikings head coach had the team back in the playoffs, and things were back on track for a franchise that had a rich history of success in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Since that 2015 season, Minnesota has earned two more trips to the playoffs, and they’ve finished with a losing record just once.

Despite the Vikings ending the 2020 campaign with more losses than wins for the first time since 2014, many believe Zimmer will be on the hot seat next season.

Minnesota’s head coach set the expectation to deliver the franchise its first-ever Super Bowl win when he had his introductory press conference in 2014. The Vikings haven’t reached a Super Bowl during his tenure yet. But thanks to Zimmer, the idea of Minnesota making it to the big game hasn’t been a crazy thought to have since 2014.

Because of the work he’s put in and the locker room he’s built, Vikings fans have continued to have high expectations for the franchise during his tenure.

These expectations for Minnesota did not exist when Frazier or Mike Tice was the team’s head coach and the only reason they were around for a little bit during Brad Childress’ time with the Vikings had nothing to do with him being the head coach (a certain gunslinger played a bigger part in this happening).

While the outcomes of the last few years haven’t been satisfying enough for Minnesota, the team has been able to head into every season since 2016 with the belief that they have the talent to make it all the way to a Super Bowl.

Without Zimmer leading the way, are these feelings even capable of existing for the Vikings during the last few years?