When Mike Zimmer was named head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, he had his work cut out for him, inheriting a team that went 5-10-1 in Leslie Frazier’s final year and was 18-30-1 since Fraizer’s first full season as head coach in 2011.
Zimmer turned the Vikings into a playoff team in two seasons and has since made the playoffs every other year, compiling the 10th best winning percentage among active coaches (.589).
“He’s been at the helm of the Purple Gang for six years. But Mike Zimmer has yet to take the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The club comes off a 10-6 showing and a wild card appearance and won a road playoff game at New Orleans before being humbled by the 49ers. There have been some changes on defense.”
Baxter’s case doesn’t mention the defensive changes (releasing five defensive starters) were largely due to salary cap constraints, and given the circumstances, whoever the Vikings chose to part ways with to make space would be met with some critique simply for namesake.
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia is the only NFC North coach ranked lower than Zimmer at No. 30. The Green Bay Packers’ Matt LaFleur is ranked No. 18, followed by the Chicago Bears’ Matt Nagy at No. 19.
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Zimmer’s Balance in a Volatile Start as Head Coach
In his six years, Zimmer has weathered many changes and managed to keep the Vikings above .500 in all but his first season, when Adrian Peterson missed the season while facing child abuse charges. The Vikings went 7-9 that season with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The following year, the Vikings defense found its Zimmer-era form, allowing just 18.9 points per game while Peterson fueled the team to finish as the fourth-best rushing offense in the league, leading to an exit in the Wild Card round against the Seattle Seahawks and an 11-6 record.
The Vikings defense led a five-game winning streak to start the 2016 season. Zimmer’s team was considered a Super Bowl contenders and No. 1 in many power rankings despite losing Bridgewater to injury before the season began and Peterson in Week 2 to a torn meniscus. But the wheels soon fell off as the Vikings offensive line became depleted with injuries and finished with the least productive run game in 2016 and Sam Bradford under center, finishing the year 8-8.
Case Keenum, the Vikings third-string quarterback in 2017, led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and the NFC title game despite losing Dalvin Cook to injury four weeks into the season.
Since then, Kirk Cousins has brought more consistency to the Vikings offense despite missing the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record in his first season in 2018.
Zimmer’s defense has kept the Vikings afloat through turbulent times, but 2020 could prove different as he introduces five new faces to the starting group.
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