Sports

Vikings sack Zimmer, Spielman; replacement search starting now

In a sweeping set of moves unlike any they’ve made since they bought the team in 2005, Vikings owners Mark and Ziggy Welf fired coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday, a day after their exhausted back-to-back losing seasons ended. Patience and wilves on the two men.

Spielman, who has been with the team since 2006, hired Zimmer to replace Leslie Frazier in 2014. Both had two years left to extend the contract they signed in 2020, but after the team finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the second game in a row the season Wilfs chose a full reset.

“We are very proud of the fact that as a property we are trying to think long term,” Mark Wolf said at a news conference on Monday. “We know we want to be consistent, but at the same time we evaluated what we were up to. … We are clearly disappointed with the football results this year, and over the past few weeks, this is something we have been thinking about and spinning a bit.”

Mark Welf said the Vikings had already begun the two searches, but would hire a general manager first so the person could help select the head coach.

The terms of Spielmann and Zimmer had strings of success. Zimmer finished his eight seasons with a 72-56-1 score, trailing only Bud Grant and Dennis Green in the games he coached (129) and winning by (0.562) among the nine Vikings coaches. The Vikings were 131-123-2, with six playoffs, in Spelman’s 16 years old.

But their struggles often centered on the same situation: quarterback.

The disastrous 2010 season and year of three wins in 2011 led the Wilfs to abandon the “power triangle” power structure that gave Spielman, head coach, and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski say equal on the roster. The property made Spielman GM in 2012; He promised to build a competing roster with local players, and stockpile outstanding talent, as he had seven picks in the first round of 2012-2014. Six — Matt Callel, Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Cordaryl Patterson, Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater — have become professional roll.

But Spielman’s inability to solve the Vikings’ long need for a midfield position may have affected his tenure more than anything else.

Christian Bonder ranked 12th in 2011; Spielman spoke about how Ponder’s early stats compare favorably with passersby like Eli Manning and Drew Bryce, and ceded Russell Wilson (whom Vikings coaches loved after working with him at the Senior Bowl) in the third round of the 2012 draft. The Vikings went to the playoffs with Ponder in 2012, but the quarterback lost his primary job in 2013, as the Vikings went 5-10-1 during Frasier’s last season.

Since the Vikings had attempted to resolve their apparent predicament before the 2014 draft, ranking Texas A&M’s Johnny Manzel just above Teddy Bridgewater on their draft board, they believed they could build a competitive team around a developing bystander.

Zimmer, a former defensive coordinator for Bengals, arrived in Minnesota describing himself as a “fixer” who would build a commanding defense. His units ranked in the top 10 in the NFL allowed each year from 2015-19.

His top teams—most notably the 2017 team that went 13-3 with the NFL defense—were superb in third defeats, ranked among the least sanctioned clubs in the NFL and pressed quarterbacks with Zimmer’s often imitated disguises. Four completes the man’s dash who didn’t sacrifice running responsibilities on his way to the quarterback.

Players like Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Barr, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes and Smith became Pro Bowlers who took lucrative second contracts from the team. Zimmer’s teams effectively battled Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a stalemate, earning hard-earned respect from a three-time player, who has often praised the coach’s system and players’ skill in implementing it.

Zimmer struggled in parts of his job outside of his defensive background.

He fought six offensive coordinators in his last six years with the team; While two (Pat Shurmore and Kevin Stefansky) left Minnesota to take coaching jobs, Norf Turner quit midway through his third season, Zimmer fired John Defilipo after 13 games in 2018, and offensive coaches have expressed their own frustrations about their work limitations, particularly with how much. Zimmer wanted the Vikings to run the ball.

While players praised Zimmer’s candor, calling it refreshing to know where they are, his blunt remarks didn’t sit well with some players. The coach became more sensitive to managing players’ workloads in his later years, but his penchant for hard practice weakened some of the Vikings’ teams in his previous seasons, as players’ initial requests for changes went unmet. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs left the team for three days in 2019 and was traded after the season, after a period of discontent over his role in attack.

Quarterback positioning, particularly in the last six years of the Spelman/Zimmer system, has remained a resource-intensive problem.

“While these decisions are not easy, we believe it is time for new leadership to raise the profile of our team so that we can continually compete for championships. . . . We are determined to maintain success and bring Vikings fans the Super Bowl championships they expect and deserve.”

Statement from Ziggy and Mark Welf

After a disastrous knee injury in August 2016 derailed the Vikings’ plans to build around Bridgewater – whom Zimmer became close to after the Vikings drafted him 32nd in 2014 – Spielman replaced Philadelphia in the first and fourth rounds for Sam Bradford, who started 15 games in 2016. But he only played two matches due to his long knee problems in 2017.

Although Kees Keenum won a major game Monday night at Relief Bradford’s injured and went 11-3 as a start that year before leading the Vikings to an NFC Championship game at the “Minneapolis Miracle”, Zimmer never called Keenum his number one player; Instead of doing his usual Wednesday press conference at QB, every week Keenum spoke on a chat session near his locker.

Zimmer expressed his concerns about spending big on QB visibly in the 2018 NFL, with Keenum, Bradford and Bridgewater due to become free agents. Zimmer said he told Spielman, “Look, we have a good team; that’s why we won forty games [over the previous four seasons]. Not because we got this or that person. Let’s make sure we continue to understand the team is why we’re doing good things.”

The Vikings gave Kirk Cousins ​​a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal weeks later, however, and the coach never seemed to click on the quarterback he would be pegged to for the rest of his time in Minnesota. The sources described Zimmer’s relationship with his cousins ​​as distant. The weekly meetings they had this year, at Cousins’ request, helped build common ground between the two, but they never came close.

Counting two playoffs for 2019, the Vikings went 34-32-1 in four years after signing Cousins. The quarterback has posted some of the best passing stats in Vikings history, but like Bridgewater and Keenum before him, Cousins ​​was one of the most under pressured passers-by in the NFL, as the Vikings tried in vain to solve their offensive line problems.

The team set aside nearly $120 million to free agents in 2016 and 2017 before using six picks in the first three rounds of the draft on the offensive linemen from 2017 to 21. Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darriso, this year’s first-round pick, missed four Matches after hip surgery in August. White Davis, one of the Vikings’ four picks in the third round, didn’t take a regular season shot.

While Brzezinski, one of the league’s most skilled salary cap managers, will remain, the new general manager and coach of the Vikings will have some work to do.

Minnesota has pushed nearly $18 million in salary cap costs to 2022, in an effort to offer a competitive slate that could save Spelman and Zimmer jobs while dealing with a lower cap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vikings had only four picks in the first five rounds, after Spielman tackled a fourth-round player to a tight end and slightly used Chris Herndon, and he will face a major decision on Cousins, who holds a $45 million max in the last season of his life a fully guaranteed deal. .

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