October 3, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches from the bench in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings viewers could be 87 days away from a happy new world with leadership, and they may not even fully realize it.
While no one involved at Minnesota headquarters has expressly said so, head coach Mike Zimmer probably needs to get to the postseason, and do something there, to continue as head coach through 2022. Zimmer has coached the team since 2014, which that makes this eighth season a success. Kind of campaign “just win, for crying out loud.” The Vikings’ feeling of stagnation has been around for a while, mainly because Minnesota never has consecutive successful seasons. It’s always playoffs, mediocrity, playoffs, mediocrity. For that cycle, strange as it may be, this season was supposed to be of the playoff variety, based on roster talent and Zimmer’s annual rotating schedule.
Through four games, it is not.
The Vikings are 1-3, owning crushing losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals. Then they just looked like trash against the Browns, not getting any offensive competition after the first offense. A bit of optimism occurred in Week 3 when the Vikings finally derailed the Seattle Seahawks after seven consecutive loss attempts.
Therefore, Zimmer has an unspoken ultimatum. The Vikings must win now, take quick steps and make a season change [like right now]. Or, the 2021 season turns into a disappointing, playoff-less experience that will almost certainly usher in a new coach for the Vikings in January or February.
And that means that while you wait for the Week 5 game against the Detroit Lions or plan a trip to North Carolina to watch the Panthers showdown, it is very possible that you are in the final three months of this version of Vikings. That’s particularly noteworthy due to the Zimmer’s longevity. Zimmer has been in charge since before LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second year of Barack Obama’s second term in office, and the era of TCF Bank Stadium. Eight seasons is a long time.
This article doesn’t formally predict that the Vikings will end the season on a whimper: 13 games is an eternity in sports. The Zimmer Vikings have heated up before when no one anticipated such a streak. In 2017, no one believed Case Keenum was worth a damn, Dalvin Cook was lost for the rest of the season, and Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen still didn’t feel like Pro Bowlers. And most of that came to a head in Week 4, the spot on the calendar right now. The 2017 group won eight straight games, racing toward the NFC Championship within one of the most memorable Vikings seasons in history. Stranger things have happened than a 2021 Vikings team warming up and winning ball games.
If they don’t, however, Vikings fans will spit “what to do with Cousins” and the merits of general manager Rick Spielman’s résumé. Lost seasons highlight evil, but they are also the catalyst for change.
Despite the day-to-day excitement of waiting and planning a change of season for these Vikings, a ticking clock could very well be reading 87 days or so. That’s Black Monday.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He present a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. Their Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut butter ice cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).