He arrived in 2014. He took the team to the playoffs in 2015, 2017, and 2019. He missed the postseason in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020.
This year, expectations were higher than 5-7 through 12 games. This year, coach Mike Zimmer talked tough before the season began. This year, the Vikings have led in every single game. This year, the Vikings have found new and spectacular ways to turn paradise into purgatory.
This year, as a result, could be Zimmer’s last year in Minnesota.
A loss tonight on national TV to the Steelers, who are coached by former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin (Minnesota should have just hired him instead of Brad Childress to be the head coach in 2006, frankly), could spark speculation that Zimmer will be fired during the mini-bye-plus-one-day between prime-time games. However, Zimmer benefits from the absence of a clear and obvious choice to serve as interim head coach for the balance of the year. (That alone is a mini-indictment of his staff.)
Regardless, a loss won’t help Zimmer stick around for an eighth season. Anything other than a playoff berth puts him at serious risk of replacement when the season ends.
It all comes down to what ownership wants to do. The Vikings are in the playoff hunt every year, even if they’re currently on an every-other-year arrangement when it comes to qualifying for the postseason. The Vikings are the epitome of “just good enough.” Never great but never so bad to trigger a hard reset.
Will the fans tolerate another year of dog paddling? At some point, they’ll want to believe that real progress is being made toward the standard set by Bud Grant in the 1970s and renewed during the Denny Green era of the 1990s. Although Zimmer has won plenty of games, his teams are more like those coached by Childress.
Keep it close, and hope to win it late. That’s a formula for 9-8 or 8-9. So far in 2021, it’s 5-7. Even with a win tonight, 9-8 and 8-9 are looking like the best-case scenarios.
Just good enough. Will it be good enough for the Wilfs to keep Zimmer? Only if it’s good enough to keep the fans from shouting Enough! just good enough.