Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has an air of self-assuredness coming off a season where the team posted the fewest wins since he took over as head coach in 2014.
The bane of last year’s team was the defense, which he called the “worst” unit he’s ever had. It was historically bad. The Zimmer-led Vikings gave up 475 points — nine points shy of the worst mark in franchise history.
Leslie Frazier allowing 449 points against in 2011 and 480 points in 2013 was enough to get himself fired and Zimmer hired.
Yet, Zimmer remains confident and defiant of any detractors suggesting he’s in the hot seat this season with the chance of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons alive and well following an embarrassing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Zimmer attested that he’s still well-respected as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.
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‘They Respect Me’
Star Tribune columnist Mark Craig spoke with Zimmer before a 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals where the Vikings beat themselves, penalized on 12 accepted infractions for 116 yards.
He told Craig that he has no intention of stepping down as head coach until after his contract is up at the end of the 2023 season.
“I think if you polled all the offensive coaches in the league, they would say that I’m still ahead of the curve,” Zimmer said. “They would tell you how much they respect me. So I don’t worry about all that. The fans can say all that stuff they want, but the people who know, they know.”
Zimmer admitted to feeling the pressure to make the playoffs this season, but it’s akin to any other year.
“I feel pressure every year, so I don’t look at it like I’m coaching for my job,” Zimmer said. “I’m going to put my resume out there on the field just like the players. And if people don’t think I’m good enough to do it, so be it. Somebody else does.”
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Zimmer Through Tribulations Has Been Good, Not Great
Boasting a 64-48-1 record, Zimmer has objectively been a winning head coach in the NFL. He’s 2-3 in the postseason despite never having the same quarterback in the team’s three playoff seasons.
There was Blair Walsh, wide left with sophomore Pro Bowl quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 NFC Wild Card round. Then third-string quarterback Case Keenum, who led the Vikings to the 2017 NFC Championship game with the held of the league’s best defense. And finally, Kirk Cousins in 2019 when the team pulled off a surprising upset over the New Orleans Saints before being foiled by the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round.
Zimmer has rolled with the punches annually with last year’s losses on defense — a trio of starting cornerbacks to free agency, Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks — adding insult to injury.
He revealed that he would be satisfied had the team won eight games last season.
“[Co-defensive coordinator] Andre [Patterson] and I talked early in the season and said, ‘If we can win eight games with this group that we got, it’s probably one of the best coaching jobs there was,’” Zimmer said. “We ended up winning seven.”
This season is becoming his biggest test, with no dramatic losses yet to afflict the team. The postseason is expected and after dropping Week 1 and a slew of contenders in the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns ahead in the coming weeks, fans are already becoming bearish on the Vikings’ prospects.