The one Vikings offseason that sealed the fate of Mike Zimmer

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer /

Looking back, one offseason, in particular, stands out as the beginning of the end for Mike Zimmer as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings didn’t usher any surprise when they officially announced that they had parted ways with both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman earlier this month. While there were reports Spielman may have been safe, it was clear 2021 would be Zimmer’s last year in Minnesota.

Zimmer leaves the Vikings with a coaching record of 72-56-1, which includes a playoff record of 2-3. Spielman’s departure ends a 16 year run of working for Minnesota in some capacity, including when he became the team’s GM in 2012.

While it’s doubtful that this is the end of either Zimmer or Spielman in the NFL, it is in the Twin Cities, leaving fans and many alike to look back on when things went wrong.

One offseason shows where Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings started to split at the seams

The 2018 offseason will forever be the mark that started the beginning of the end for Zimmer’s time in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Coming off a 13-3 record in 2017 with a majority of the year spent with backup QB Case Keenum starting under center, the Vikings were poised to make a deep playoff run.

After a bye in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, Minnesota showed their grit and tenacity with the historic “Minneapolis Miracle” game in which Stefon Diggs caught a walk-off touchdown catch to beat the New Orleans Saints.

From there, things were never the same.

One week later, the Vikings were defeated 38-7 by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. With heavy pressure from an Eagles defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz, and a Philadelphia offense with Nick Foles that seemingly carved up Minnesota’s secondary, the hope of a home Super Bowl for the Vikings was over.

While this may have been the beginning of the end for Spielman as well, the disconnect began when Spielman went out to sign free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to a record-breaking contract in 2018. With limited cap space, improving the Vikings’ offensive line was pushed to the wayside.

Since the 2018 offseason, Minnesota has only had one winning season under Zimmer, which included another playoff win over the Saints. But even after that victory, the Vikings, again, were simply out-played and out-coached by Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers in the 2018 divisional round.

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Though it’s hard to pinpoint just where things go wrong at the end of any head coach’s tenure, the 2017 NFC Championship and the events of the 2018 offseason highlighted just where the recently fired duo split, and more importantly where Zimmer may have lost the locker room.