Mike Zimmer has been fired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings after 14 seasons with a record of 130-93. The decline in wins and lack of playoff appearances have led to his departure, which will leave many questions unanswered for now. Here are some plays that got him canned and seven words that might spell disaster for whoever takes over at the helm next year (or sooner).
Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings needed to win this game in order to have a realistic chance of reaching the playoffs. It was on the road, but it was against the Detroit Lions, who were 0-10-1. Isn’t there money in the bag?
Not at all.
Zimmer and the Vikings were defeated by the Lions in a humiliating last-second loss, 29-27. Zimmer very certainly coached his way out of the Minnesota head coaching job in the process.
The Minnesota Vikings were unable to put the Detroit Lions away.
Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings watches the action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions | Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images
This season, Detroit isn’t recognized for playing particularly excellent football. To be honest, the Lions haven’t played decent football in a long time. That’s why it seemed as if Minnesota had the game under control when Kirk Cousins connected Justin Jefferson for a touchdown throw with 1:50 left in the game, putting the Vikings up 27-23. Sure, the Vikings failed to convert the two-point conversion, but it shouldn’t have been a big deal. With less than two minutes remaining and no timeouts, Detroit would regain possession of the ball. It should have been no trouble for the Vikings to escape with a narrow win over a purportedly feared Zimmer-led defense.
The Vikings’ defense melted down in 14 plays and 1:50, allowing them to lose a game that they needed to win.
With the ball on the Detroit 25-yard line, Jared Goff assumed the role of Tom Brady. Goff guided the Lions 75 yards down the field, where he struck Amon-Ra St. Brown on an 11-yard touchdown pass to win the game with a score of 0-0.
The Vikings, according to Harrison Smith, were “playing soft” on the last drive.
Zimmer has carved up a reputation as a defensive mastermind in the NFL. No, he didn’t lead the 1985 Bears or the “Steel Curtain,” but in his eight years as head coach in Minnesota, he’s had five top-10 defenses, including one that was the best in the league in 2017, allowing just 15.8 points per game.
That was his résumé heading into Sunday’s game in Detroit, which makes safety Harrison Smith’s interpretation of the last drive all the more puzzling.
“We were simply being too kind to them.” Allow them to go out of bounds a few times. According to the team’s website, Smith commented after the game, “It was pretty much it.” “Yeah, that’s been a problem for us all year, and it finally bit us today.” We’ve got to do something about it.”
We. Were. Just. Awkward. With. Them.
There are just seven words.
In the NFL, it seems that prevent defense never works, yet Zimmer supposedly used it against Detroit. Sure, playing soft with the opponent in their own territory makes sense at times, but on the last drive, the Lions were able to grab the ball and go out of bounds three times, thereby giving them three free timeouts.
On the game’s last play, the Vikings allowed St. Brown around 10 yards of room to go open for a short curl route into the end zone on the 11-yard line.
That is how you lose against a winless club, and it is all down to coaching.
Mike Zimmer’s stint with the Vikings is expected to expire shortly.
Prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Zimmer has done some fantastic things for the Vikings, particularly on defense, but the defeat to Detroit proves that he’s reached the end of his tenure in Minnesota.
Even a competent coach may lose their cool in the locker room from time to time, but what happened against the Lions was plain awful coaching.
It also has nothing to do with the final drive.
The Vikings enabled Goff to throw three touchdown passes, making him seem to be an above-average NFL starter, which he is not. Josh Reynolds, who was just claimed off waivers by the Lions, had four catches for 17.3 yards per reception. T.J. Hockenson is a good tight end, but against Minnesota, he looked like the second coming of Tony Gonzalez. Even die-hard Detroit fans would have had to look up tight end Brock Wright after the Vikings gave up a score to him.
Last season, Zimmer’s defense ranked 29th in the league, allowing 29.7 points per game. The Vikings were rated 24th in the league entering into Detroit, and with the surprise defeat, that position is only going to become worse.
When it’s time, it’s time, and Zimmer and the Vikings have arrived at that point.
ESPN and Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.
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