The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the NFL this season, finishing the year at 8-9, and prompting the team to fire head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday morning.
Zimmer was one of three causalities on Black Monday, which saw three head coaches fired after failing to lead their teams to a postseason berth.
In eight seasons with the Vikings, Zimmer went 72-56-1 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs. Under Zimmer, the Vikings qualified for the playoffs three times, but missed the postseason in the past two seasons. The Vikings went all the way to the 2017 NFC Championship game, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, who would go on to upset the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Zimmer was hired as a defensive guru. The Vikings had the top defense in the NFL when they made a deep playoff run in 2017, but their defense dropped off substantially in recent seasons. The Vikings allowed 25.1 ppg this season and were ranked #31 out of 32 teams.
Last season, the Vikings’ late-game defense was Swiss cheese. They allowed a league-worst 107 points in the final two minutes of games in 2020. This season, the Vikings lost 14 games that were decided by one possession. They also went 2-2 in games decided by three points or less.
Whacked by the Wilfs
The Vikings are owned by Zygi and Mark Wilf. The Wilfs decided to move on from Zimmer and Spielman, who had been the general manager since 2012 after first joining the Vikings front office in 2008.
“This morning we met with Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer to notify them we will be moving in a different direction at the general manager and head coach positions in 2022,” said the Wilfs in a statement.
The Vikings are now seeking a new general manager and head coach. Both positions will be tough to fill considering the multiple openings right now and the simple fact that the new regime will have to figure out what to do with Kirk Cousins and his hefty contract.
The NFL tends to recycle head coaches. Zimmer will be considered for other openings, or he could return to the defensive coordinator ranks, where he was once considered one of the best in the league before he took his first head coaching gig with the Vikings.
The Vikings will talk with a group of ex-head coaches who are seeking jobs next season, including Jason Garrett, Bill O’Brien, and Jay Gruden. Both Vic Fangio and Brian Flores were also fired in the last 24 hours, and they’ll also get a call from the Wilfs.
Todd Bowles, who is the current defensive coordinator with the defending-champion Tampa Bay Bucs, is also on the shortlist of candidates. Bowles previously was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.