Although he hasn’t brought the Minnesota Vikings to a Super Bowl in his tenure as coach, Mike Zimmer is long overdue for some props.
Zimmer was ranked the tenth best coach in the NFL by CBS Sports on Tuesday — a ranking that the list’s curator admitted undervalued the Vikings coach.
Top 10 coaches in the NFL
(According to @seanjwagner)
1. Bill Belichick
2. Andy Reid
3. John Harbaugh
4. Sean Payton
5. Kyle Shanahan
6. Sean McVay
7. Mike Tomlin
8. Pete Carroll
9. Doug Pederson
10. Mike Zimmer pic.twitter.com/JVVuns5Oj8
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 29, 2020
Sean Wagner-McGough cited a middling playoff record as justification for Zimmer’s No. 10 spot on the list, despite him feeling Zimmer “is underappreciated.”
Here’s Wagner’s explanation:
“It still feels like Mike Zimmer is underappreciated. Here’s what he’s done as the Vikings’ coach for the past six seasons:
He’s won 59.9 percent of his games, good enough for a 57-38-1 record. He’s been to the playoffs in half of his six seasons, even though he’s been stuck in the same division as Aaron Rodgers. He’d be 3-2 instead of 2-3 in the playoffs if Blair Walsh hadn’t gone all Blair Walsh on him. As a defensive-minded coach, he always gets the most out of the Vikings’ defense. In his six seasons, the Vikings’ defense has ranked in the top-10 in points allowed five times. The only time they didn’t finish in the top-10 came in his first season in charge, when they ranked 11th.
Zimmer isn’t a perfect coach. He probably needs to win more playoff games to get more respect. But he’s a defensive-minded coach who always gets results out of his defense.”
Every coach above Zimmer has made it to the Super Bowl but had consistency at quarterback Zimmer has yet to see in his time in Minnesota.
While most have had the same franchise QB or one change since 2014, four different quarterbacks have led the Vikings in Zimmer’s six years with the franchise.
Kirk Cousins a Drain or Saving Grace For Zimmer?
Kirk Cousins may have a controversial price tag, but his signing has given Zimmer needed stability after building a top-tier defense after Teddy Bridgewater didn’t pan out for the Vikings.
Bridgewater was a viable pick in Zimmer’s first year as coach as the former Louisville product brought the Vikings to the NFC Wild Card round in 2015 — a playoff berth that was foiled by a wide-left Blair Walsh field goal against the Seattle Seahawks.
But when Bridgewater suffered his devastating knee injury, the quarterback carousel began to spin.
The Vikings signed Sam Bradford to a two-year deal in 2016 only to be replaced by Case Keenum a year later. While Keenum had a successful season and was maestro to the Minneapolis Miracle, the Vikings wanted to bank on a more proven and longterm solution at quarterback. Zimmer cautioned “that a quarterback move shouldn’t come at the expense of the rest of the roster,” the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling wrote.
Enter Cousins’ historic, three-year $86 million guaranteed deal.
Cousins hasn’t quite lived up to his salary with one playoff win in two seasons. The next two seasons left on Cousins’ new contract will be telling of whether he’s become a drain to Zimmer’s defense or the spinnaker of the ship.
After parting ways with five starters on defense — partially due to salary cap constraints that were imminent with or without Cousins — Zimmer will have to ready his players on rookie contracts to overhaul the defense that got him this far.