Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has a reputation as an intimidator to the team’s placekickers over the years.
Zimmer has shown a change of heart this season.
Greg Joseph, signed to replace Dan Bailey this offseason, pushed a 37-yard field goal try wide right in the waning seconds of a 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and became the latest target of the fan base.
Zimmer came to Joseph’s defense.
This kid has kicked well. He missed a couple this week. That wasn’t the reason why we lost the game,” Zimmer said in a Monday press conference. “Lots of kickers miss field goals. Let’s give the kid a break, OK?”
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Zimmer Addresses Replacing Joseph
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin asked Zimmer if Joseph would remain the Vikings kicker in Sunday’s postseason press conference.
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t think you should make a decision today on things like that. You know, I don’t think you make personnel decisions right after a guy misses a kick,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer did just that in 2018 with then-rookie kicker Daniel Carlson. Carlson struggled in the preseason and missed a pair of overtime field goals in a 29-29 tie against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field two weeks into the season. He was cut immediately after that game.
Here was Zimmer’s response at the time of Carlson’s release:
Reporter: What went into the decision today to let Daniel Carlson?
Zimmer: Did you see the game?
Reporter: Was it an easy decision?
Zimmer: Yep. Pretty easy.
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He has since changed his philosophy with kickers and has offered a much looser leash after a history of bad luck at the position in Zimmer’s tenure.
Vikings Kicking Woes
Since Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014, the Vikings have the NFL’s seventh-worst field goal percentage, making only 80.9% of their kicks in the regular season and playoff games, per the Star Tribune.
It gets worse.
On field-goal attempts to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes of regulation, the Vikings are tied for the second-worst percentage in the NFL at 50%. They’re 5-for-10 on those kicks and have gone 2-for-4 in overtime, according to the Star Tribune.
Zimmer has gone through five kickers in less than seven years as the team’s head coach. There are few tangible reasons for the difficulties at the position, which leaves the situation largely on Joseph’s leg.
Joseph hit a 53-yard field goal to send the Vikings into overtime against the Bengals in Week 1, which left many fans thrilled that their follies at the position would be over with Joseph.
Joseph missing Sunday’s potential game-winning field goal and an extra point on Sunday has zapped that optimism from the fan base. However, he remains resolute, currently sitting at 3-for-4 on field-goal tries and 6-for-7 on extra points.
“If anything, making some of those longer kicks showed me and everyone that I’m capable of making the shorter ones as well,” Joseph said in a Monday press conference. “Just have to do a better job of executing next time.”
Zimmer gave Joseph some grace, acknowledging his past success so far this season.
“This kid’s kicked well. He missed a couple this week, that wasn’t the reason we lost this game,” Zimmer said.