The Vikings’ decision to start veteran Sean Mannion over Kellen Mond on Sunday night in Green Bay was the right one. Kirk Cousins didn’t go on the COVID list until Friday, giving his primary backup only one day of practice to prepare. Giving the start to Mond, who has received no first-team work during his rookie season, would have been unfair and a recipe for disaster.
But the Vikings should let Mond start Sunday against the Chicago Bears in their meaningless regular-season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cousins could return from the COVID list before the game, but there is no reason to have him play. Mond, a third-round pick last April, should get all of the first-team reps in practice this week and then get an opportunity to show what he can do against a Bears team that long ago was eliminated from the postseason picture.
This would give the Vikings a chance to see what type of development Mond has made this season. Worst case is that he has a bad game, but this is nothing more than an exhibition. Mond looked lost in completing 2-of-3 passes for 5 yards in one second-half series on Sunday, but that’s even more reason to want to get a longer look at him.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who like Bears coach Matt Nagy is expected to be coaching his last game for his current team, might balk at the idea of starting Mond (just look at his postgame quotes Sunday) but this is one case where overruling the coach would be a good idea.
Mond played in all three preseason games for the Vikings, completing 28-of-51 passes for 310 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed 13 times for 73 yards (5.6 average) with five first downs.
- A Vikings’ loss against the Bears wouldn’t be a bad thing. As one of four teams at 7-9 entering Week 18, the Vikings currently would draft 12th in the first round. That draft position would improve with a loss to Chicago.
- It sounds as if Vikings ownership is set to meet this week to discuss plans for the future, including how to address moves that are expected to be made next week. This likely will involve Zimmer being fired with two years left on his contract, and could include general manager Rick Spielman being given a new title so a new GM could be hired.
- Who would replace Spielman? One name that could emerge is Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay, who joined the franchise as its pro scouting coordinator in 2009. The 55-year-old McClay has turned down chances to work elsewhere, but the Vikings job could be an intriguing one. He also could have an inside track to hire Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore as his head coach.
- Another potential scenario that some in-the-know analysts feel would be a home run for the Vikings: Hire Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds to run the football operation and former Eagles coach Doug Pederson as head coach. In that scenario, a potential candidate to be defensive coordinator could be current Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who served as the Bears’ defensive coordinator for four seasons before getting the Broncos job in 2019. Fangio, like Zimmer and Nagy, is on the hot seat and could be shown the door by former Vikings assistant GM and current Broncos GM George Paton. Denver is 7-9 heading into its regular-season finale on Saturday against Kansas City.
- The Vikings figure to have plenty of competition from other teams expected to make head coaching changes — Jacksonville and Vegas already have interim coaches, and moves could be made in Houston, Denver, Chicago and Carolina — but the Minnesota job has to be one of the most attractive. While a decision would have to be made on Kirk Cousins’ contract, the quarterback remains under team control and is a fringe Top 10 QB in the league. The Vikings also have several other quality players, starting with wide receiver Justin Jefferson, and a new practice facility and stadium that would be attractive to free agents.
- The struggling Wild called up center Marco Rossi (first-round pick, ninth overall, in 2020) and winger Matthew Boldy (first-round pick, 12th overall, 2019) on Tuesday from Iowa of the AHL. The moves were made out of necessity. However, if both produce, it’s likely they will remain in Minnesota. Rossi and Boldy will make their NHL debuts on Thursday night in Boston, with Rossi expected to center the second line with Marcus Foligno and Kevin Fiala on his wings and Boldy playing left wing on the third line. Rossi and Boldy also are likely to be on the first and second power-play units, respectively. The Wild’s power play has been one of the team’s biggest disappointments so far this season.
- One veteran hockey observer expects Boldy to have more of an immediate impact than Rossi, but likes the fact that Rossi will be playing with the speedy Fiala.
- The Wild are without center Joel Eriksson Ek (upper-body injury), winger Jordan Greenway (COVID-19 list), defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower body) and now goalie Cam Talbot, who suffered a lower-body injury Saturday in the Winter Classic loss to St. Louis.
- Talbot’s absence will make Kaapo Kahkonen the Wild’s top netminder. Kahkonen is 4-2-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in only eight games this season. Talbot is 15-8-1 with a 3.00 GAA and .909 save percentage in 24 games. Andrew Hammond, who was 6-1-2 with a 2.09 GAA and .919 save percentage in nine games for Iowa this season, will serve as Kahkonen’s backup. Hammond, 33, has played in 56 NHL games over five seasons with Ottawa and Colorado, but has not played in the NHL since appearing in one game for the Avalanche in 2017-18. He signed as a free agent with the Wild in December 2020.
- Credit goes to the NHL, the Wild and the Twins for a fantastic job with the Winter Classic at Target Field. The game wasn’t great, but the setup was incredible and, even in the freezing conditions, proved to be a perfect celebration of the sport in Minnesota. If anything, it showed why the Winter Classic should be the only outdoor game played in the U.S. each season. The Stadium Series in 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium was very well done but couldn’t compare to the feel of the Winter Classic. The only thing about the Stadium Series that was better was the alumni game held the day before between former North Stars and Wild players and former Blackhawks players. It sounds as if there wasn’t any real interest in doing a North Stars-Blues alumni game this time.
- Bill Mahoney, who coached the North Stars to the Western Conference Finals in 1983-84 but was fired 13 games into the following season, died on Dec. 16 because of dementia. Mahoney moved to London, Ont., after being fired by the North Stars and opened the first of a number of Tim Hortons franchises that he eventually owned.