There have been rumblings that Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf haven’t decided what changes they will make when their team’s disappointing season comes to an end. Many think that coach Mike Zimmer will be fired after eight seasons and with two years left on his contract. There has been speculation that general manager Rick Spielman will be given a different title, so a new GM can take control of the decisions involving personnel. Others believe Spielman will be fired with two years left on his contract and Zimmer will stay.
But if there ever was a case to be made for a clean sweep at TCO Performance Center it came on Sunday night at Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers embarrassed the Vikings, 37-10, mercifully putting an end to Minnesota’s hopes of getting into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the NFC. It was a spot the Vikings had no business sniffing around and now won’t have to worry about entering their Week 18 exhibition against the Chicago Bears next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in the regular-season finale.
That game promises to be a dud. The next day, Jan. 10, should be filled with fireworks. If Zygi and Mark were undecided about what to do with Spielman and Zimmer before Sunday, watching their team get routed by its biggest rival should have cleared up any confusion or mixed emotions about two longtime employees.
The Vikings were without quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Adam Thielen and nose tackle Michael Pierce, leaving poor Sean Mannion to start at QB and, not surprisingly, fail. This created potential excuses for Spielman and Zimmer, but none of them should be entertained. Not when so many of the guys who did take the field inexcusably looked uninterested.
Throughout the season, the one contention was that the Vikings had not quit on Zimmer. That became a more difficult statement to make after the Vikings fell to 7-9 on Sunday. Since going 10-6 in 2019, and then beating New Orleans in the playoffs before losing at San Francisco, Zimmer’s teams are 14-18 and haven’t spent a day over .500.
This isn’t just a Zimmer problem, or a Spielman problem, or a Cousins problem, or a name-the-guy you don’t like the most problem. This is an organization in desperate need of a fresh start and the 2021 season has been a near constant reminder of this. Taken in a small sample, it’s easy to say these Vikings had bad luck. Close losses, injury issues, COVID problems, take your pick.
But success in the NFL is a product of embracing and fighting through the adversity of a season and coming out on top. The Vikings’ issues had nothing to do with bad luck. They had everything to do with self-inflicted wounds that started in training camp and continued right into the New Year.
The Vikings’ biggest problem is they never felt like a team. They felt like a collection of individuals, more concerned with their own agendas than any collective success. Was there talent on this team? Absolutely. Were there enough players who actually cared about winning? Not a chance.
The roster needs to be examined and taken apart. Veterans with significant salary cap hits need to be jettisoned, no matter how many of their jerseys are worn by fans. This isn’t a job for Spielman. He built this roster and won’t have a clear vision of how to take it apart. Zimmer also has no place in making decisions, or trying to sell a vision. He had his chance and did some good work, but it’s clear his message and approach is no longer working.
Hopefully, the Wilfs have realized this and have been quietly making plans for the future. What they saw this season — and really the last two years — isn’t acceptable. The Vikings have made one playoff appearance since Cousins signed a massive free-agent deal in 2018. Cousins was supposed to be the final piece to the Vikings’ Super Bowl puzzle.
Instead, he sat at home on Sunday night because of COVID, watching his team’s latest implosion. What did Cousins think of this? Nobody cares. The only opinion that will carry weight is what the Wilfs’ think and if they are listening to their fan base, they know the majority of Vikings’ supporters are sick and tired of Spielman, Zimmer and Cousins.
A small change isn’t going to suffice.
The Vikings need new leadership and direction. If that doesn’t start on Jan. 10, then it will be clear Zygi and Mark Wilf are as much a part of the problem as their current GM and coach.