Vikings Toe ‘Slippery Slope’ After Zimmer Dismisses Justin Jefferson, Analyst Says

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 09, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has bigger problems on his plate than Justin Jefferson’s future prospects — like making the playoffs to avoid ownership’s axe this offseason.

After the second-year star receiver called out a lack of energy and poor playcalling after last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Zimmer dismissed Jefferson’s outcry as a lapse of judgment due to postgame frustration.

“I think Justin was just frustrated,” Zimmer said on December 27, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Hey, we’re all frustrated when we don’t win the game. We all get frustrated. We all say things 10 minutes after the game that we wish we wouldn’t have. … In my opinion, he just wants to win. And part of that is he wants to get the ball if he can. And I don’t think he’s calling out anybody. That’s not the type of person he is.”

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio dissected Zimmer’s apologetic response as a deflection from a larger truth Jefferson had shared in the heat of the Vikings’ losing complete control of its chances at the playoff.

Florio begged the following question: “Why does someone have to be a certain ‘type of person’ to speak the truth? Zimmer isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Is he a bad ‘type of person?’ ”

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Similar ‘Slippery Slope’ Could Lead to Jefferson Wanting Out of Minnesota

Zimmer also noticed the lack of energy during pregame warmups and broke down a huddle before the game.

It clearly didn’t work.

“I addressed the energy level pregame and tried to make sure they were getting going and ready to go out and play,” Zimmer said Monday, per Tomasson. “We just didn’t start well, but we came back and the energy level got up.”

Lapses of energy and motivation have plagued the Vikings all year. The team has coasted when getting ahead of competition which has left too many games decided in the final minutes.

With Minnesota’s lack of success over the past two years, there’s a potential Zimmer has fallen out of favor with many in the organization, rendering him as a less inspiring leader than he once was during the salad days of his tenure.

And while Jefferson called out the lack of energy shown from his teammates, he continues to tout that he is keeping his head down and doing what he’s told.

“I think we should be more aggressive when we get down there [in the red zone], as soon as we get down there,” Jefferson said in his Rams postgame interview. But I’m not the one calling the plays. I’m just here to do my job and do what’s told to me.”

But if the team continues its rollercoaster ways and fails to steady its course, Florio sees the potential for Jefferson to want out of Minnesota.

“Jefferson’s comments should be regarded by Minnesota as a potential first step down the same slippery slope that resulted in Stefon Diggs eventually wanting out, and getting his wish,” Flori wrote. Frankly, that’s not a problem for Zimmer to worry about for now. If they don’t find a path to the playoffs in the next 12 days, it quite possibly will never be Zimmer’s problem.”

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