Former Vikings defender spews lies in order to bash Mike Zimmer

(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports) Mike Zimmer
(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports) Mike Zimmer /

Former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber recently shared his thoughts on the franchise’s final two years of the Mike Zimmer era.

Following his departure from the Minnesota Vikings earlier this year, Mike Zimmer left the team as the head coach with the third-highest winning percentage in the franchise’s history. Only Bud Grant and Dennis Green led the Vikings to wins more often than Zimmer did during their tenures as the team’s head coach.

With an accomplishment like this, some might think that Zimmer would be showered with praise for what he was able to do for Minnesota in his time with the franchise. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, and a number of people have used the former head coach’s departure as an opportunity to select him as the scapegoat for the team’s failures during the last few seasons.

Most recently, former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, who is also a contributor for the Vikings Entertainment Network that is owned by the franchise, used a radio interview to point more fingers at Zimmer.

Ben Leber says the Minnesota Vikings had a “crap defense” under Mike Zimmer in 2021

In a recent radio interview with CBS Sports’ Zach Gelb, Leber talked about how he believed Minnesota’s defense is what held the team back from accomplishing anything in 2021 and 2020.

"“Kirk was out of the Green Bay [in Week 17] because of COVID and [the Vikings were] right at No. 10 in total offense in the league. Then after that game, which was a complete clunker, and then [after] the next game, they dropped down to 11th or 12th in the league. That was a top-10 offense last year with a very green, first-time offensive coordinator.Where was their defense ranked last year? 31st. The year before that, I think they were ranked 27th. So people can rail on Kirk and rail on this offense and say ‘we can’t win with him’ or ‘we can’t win with this offense.’ I say that’s total BS. We couldn’t win with the crap defense that we’ve had the last two years.”"

Let’s start with Leber’s comment about the Vikings having a top-10 offense last season if not for their final two games on the schedule.

He has decided to use total yards to indicate whether a team has a good offense or not. But total yards is probably one of the worst statistics that can be used to prove how good an offense in the NFL is.

While Leber is right in that Minnesota did rank ninth in total yards in the NFL heading into their Week 17 game against the Green Bay Packers last season, this does not mean that the Vikings had a top-10 offense in 2021.

Just look at a team like the Baltimore Ravens last season. The Ravens finished the 2021 campaign ranked sixth in the league in total yards. But when looking at other numbers that paint a better picture about offensive performance, Baltimore was not among the NFL’s best.

Last season, Baltimore ranked 17th in points per game, 18th in yards per play, 17th in scoring percentage, and 19th in expected points. These rankings would indicate that the Ravens did not have a top-10 offense in 2021. But according to Leber’s logic, Baltimore should have been regarded as a top-10 offense in the NFL last season because they ranked sixth in total yards.

Similar to the Ravens, Minnesota’s offense did not rank as high in these other statistical categories in 2021. Last season, the Vikings ranked 14th in points per game, 13th in yards per play, 15th in scoring percentage, and 17th in expected points.

Minnesota really just had an average offense last year. They were not a top-10 unit as Leber attempted to declare on Gelb’s radio show.

When it comes to Leber’s claims about the Vikings’ defense, this is where he can be accused of lying. What he says isn’t even close to being true.

Leber told Gelb that Minnesota’s defense ranked 31st last season, but he conveniently failed to say what they ranked 31st in. The closest ranking to Leber’s claim was the Vikings’ finishing 30th in total yards allowed in 2021, which, as it is also the case for offense, is not a good indicator of a good or bad defense.

Last season, Minnesota’s defense ranked 24th in points allowed per game, 27th in yards allowed per play, 22nd in scoring percentage, and 21st in expected points contributed by the unit. Now, these aren’t good rankings. That’s obvious. But they’re also not at the very bottom of the NFL like Leber was trying to indicate.

When looking at even more metrics that do a better job of determining the performance of an offense or a defense, Leber’s main point that it was the defense holding the Vikings back in 2021 is proven to be even more false.

Last season, Minnesota’s offense ranked 17th in total DVOA according to Football Outsiders and 17th in EPA per play according to On the flip-side, the Vikings’ 2021 defense ranked 16th in total DVOA and 12th in EPA per play.

These rankings certainly don’t make it seem like Minnesota had a “crap defense” last season that was preventing the team from accomplishing their goals.

Really, the bottom line is that the Vikings weren’t really good enough on either side of the ball to do much of anything last season. Minnesota was an average team in 2021 and it’s why they finished with an 8-9 record.

Neither the offense nor the defense deserves more blame than the other for the Vikings’ failures last season. Both units didn’t do enough to get the team into the playoffs and there’s no reason to sway the argument in favor of the offense or the defense.

But unfortunately, Zimmer and Minnesota’s defense have continued to be given the scapegoat label by people that are just looking for an easy target.

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