Mike Zimmer shrugs off speculation about his job after Vikings eliminated from playoffs
As Vikings coach, Zimmer is 71-56-1 with three playoff berths in his first six seasons, including a trip to the 2017 NFC Championship Game. But the Vikings are just 14-18 the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years.
EAGAN, Minn. -- So much for the Minnesota Vikings’ trend of making the playoffs in odd-numbered years.
Since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014, Minnesota missed the postseason in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 and made it in 2015, 2017 and 2019. But the 2021 season will end with a whimper in a meaningless Vikings game against Chicago on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings (7-9) were eliminated from playoff contention with their ugly 37-10 loss at Green Bay on Sunday night, a game in which they were without starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, who went on the COVID-19 reserve list two days before the game. And there is much speculation about whether Zimmer will be back in 2022 for a ninth season.
Asked Monday if he has talked to management about his future, Zimmer said, “No, I have not talked to any of them.”
He then was asked why he believes he would be the right man for the job moving forward.
“That’s not for me to judge,” Zimmer said.
As Vikings coach, Zimmer is 71-56-1 with three playoff berths in his first six seasons, including a trip to the 2017 NFC Championship Game. But the Vikings are just 14-18 the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years. They have not been above .500 at any point during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“The media is the ones doing all the ‘uncertainty” and everything else,” Zimmer said about speculation on whether he and his staff will return. “We don’t worry about that. We just focus on what our job is.”
Both Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have two years left on their contracts after both were given three-year extensions before the start of last season. There also has been speculation about Spielman’s future.
The Vikings were outclassed from the start at Green Bay with Sean Mannion, who has played sparingly in his seven-year career, taking over for Cousins. They fell behind 20-0 in the second quarter, and never had a chance.
During the broadcast on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, analyst Cris Collinsworth touched upon Zimmer perhaps not being back next season.
“You can hire a new coach, (but) you’re not going to hire a better coach,” Collinsworth said.
After the game, cornerback Patrick Peterson said he was disappointed with the Vikings being eliminated from the playoffs due to having “talent everywhere across the board.” But he didn’t point the finger at Zimmer for this season’s struggles.
“You know you’re judged on W’s in this game,” Peterson said. “But I believe Zim is a great head coach, has a great connection with his team. (It was) just a lot of those games we weren’t able to finish. At the end of the day, that’s not a coaching problem. … Coaching decisions, coaching changes, that’s something that’s out of our control. That’s up to upper management. But I think Zim is definitely the guy for the job.”
The Vikings tied an NFL record this season by playing 14 one-possession games. They hadn’t lost a game by more than eight points until Sunday. However, in games decided by eight points or less, they’ve gone just 6-8.
“We fumbled the ball in overtime against Cincinnati, we gave up a touchdown at the end of the game against Dallas. We missed a field goal against Arizona. We lost in overtime against Baltimore. We gave up a pass on the last play of the game against Detroit,” Zimmer said. “So those are critical things that happened throughout the course of the year. You hit half of those and you are in the playoffs.”
Some of the failings at the end of games were due to a shaky defense. And Zimmer calls the defensive plays.
The Vikings last season were 27th out of 32 NFL teams in total defense, and Zimmer called it the “worst defense” he’s had in two decades as a defensive coordinator and head coach. Well, this season’s defense ranks 31st with one game to go.
“I would just say we weren’t consistent,” safety Xavier Woods said Monday. “We were giving up points in the last two minutes of the half and the game. You can point to that for our inconsistencies throughout the year as far as defense.
Wood never figured on the Vikings being out of the playoff race with a game to play.
“Definitely surprised,” he said. “Speaking for all of us, we thought we had a chance to make a run for the title.”