Hi everyone, how have you all been? I talked to Fearless Leader, and he graciously agreed to let me make a guest post here on the front page. This is a one time thing, and honestly, it isn’t the post I wanted to make my cameo appearance over.
I was hoping it would be a Super Bowl winning Stock Market Report but lol Sid Hartman lived to be 100 and didn’t see one so I’ll be long dead before the Vikings ever win it all.
You’ll have to settle for this instead.
When I said goodbye to you all over the summer, I said that, among other things, I just wasn’t fired up about the state of the team. I thought the Vikings had gone as far as they could under Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman, and that this was going to be a team that was heading towards a rebuild, not a re-tool.
I thought it would be kind of a gradual trip, though, kind of like a leisurely Sunday drive we used to take around Lake Harriet when I was a kid coming home from my Aunt and Uncle’s house. But Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have haphazardly turned it into a time trial at Daytona, and with the Yannick Ngakoue trade this morning, they just floored it and crashed head first going in to turn four.
The collapse of this team has been so fast, sudden, and complete that the Ngakoue trade and the net result should be the cherry on top that terminates the employment of both the GM and the head coach. I have said that almost every personnel decision the Vikings made since the end of their run to the NFC Championship in 2017 has been wrong, and the result is now a 1-5 record, the worst defense in franchise history through six games, and seemingly no coherent rebuild plan.
Or if there is one, the Vikings are making it worse with seemingly every move.
Let’s take a look at a few key inflection points to understand why this regime should clean out their desks, today:
The signing of Kirk Cousins: This was the first move that started the downward trend. Statistically, Cousins was the best option between a triumvirate of him, Teddy Bridgewater, and Case Keenum. But the locker room the Vikes had at the end of that season was special, and that move altered the chemistry of that team. I am NOT saying Cousins ruined the chemistry, but getting rid of two quarterbacks that seemed to be legitimately loved by the rest of the team was a mistake.
The thinking, though, was that Cousins, if given an opportunity on a good football team with weapons he didn’t have in Washington, would blossom into a true franchise quarterback. It seemed like a reasonable hypothesis that was worth looking at.
That did not happen, and the Cousins experiment has failed. In 2018, with the only change in the starting 22 being Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson, Minnesota scuffed and stumbled to an 8-7-1 record, and a team that started the season on a short list of Super Bowl contenders missed the playoffs entirely. The end came in week 17 with Cousins and Adam Thielen openly arguing on the sidelines. Awesome.
The Salary Cap: The Cousins signing was the first in a series of moves that really put the Vikings hard up against the salary cap. His three year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract was a sign the Vikings went all in to win, and although they won a wildcard playoff game in New Orleans last year, let’s face it, Cousins wasn’t brought in to miss the playoffs, go one then done, and then 1-5 to start this season. There were also other moves, like the re-signing of Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen a couple years back, that really have the Vikings in a bind financially for the next 2-3 years, but there’s an even bigger albatross hanging over the Vikings salary cap, and that is…
The Kirk Cousins Extension: It was a puzzling move to me. The Vikes took their shot in 2018 and 2019, they knew they were going to be going through a transition in 2020, and they had two options in front of them: Try to re-sign some key veterans and re-tool for another run, or get healthy cap wise after 2020 when some big vet contracts expire, get a young QB you can build around, and go from there.
With ample evidence in front of them, The Vikings still chose to re-sign a guy who has become a known quantity—a backup from a talent perspective making franchise money, who cannot carry a team when he needs to, who pads his stats after the game is well decided, who folds like a wet cardboard box when it matters, and who has the sideline body language of a store manager when ‘Karen’ asks to speak to him. Yet, the Vikes gave a guy with one come from behind win in 19 games as the Vikings QB a two year extension, and completely screwed over their cap situation until at least the 2023 season.
Because of that, the re-tool option has failed, and the Vikings must now rebuild. Only they have limited resources to do so, and must rebuild around a 30 something quarterback who is not the answer, either in the short term or long term. Unless they can move him and clear his contract (they cannot—would YOU trade for him?), they are stuck with him.
Defensive Makeover: The moves made on defense this past off-season were puzzling as Hell, too. When you looked at the Vikings schedule, the thing that popped out, at least to me, was the caliber of quarterbacks they were going to be facing, almost every week. Yet, the braintrust decided it was a good idea to get rid of all three starting cornerbacks and go with rookies or wildly inexperienced guys to take their place. Look, I could understand not re-signing Trae Waynes; he wanted CB1 money, and God Bless him he got it in Cincy.
But not attempting to re-sign Xavier Rhodes or Mackensie Alexander was an enormous mistake, and the Vikings are paying for it week in and week out. This decision has been an unmitigated disaster for the defense.
Stefon Diggs trade: Yes, I like Justin Jefferson, and I think he’s going to be really good for a long time. Yes, I’m still butthurt over the Diggs trade. You knew your defense was going to struggle with all the new faces, especially in the secondary. I don’t think anyone thought this bad, but the point is they were going to have to lean on the offense they built to be run centric to now try and outscore opponents until the defense got their sea legs. So, the answer to that was to trade your top offensive playmaker, from a position group that was already razor thin from a talent perspective?
LOL YES IT WAS!!
There is still no legit third wide receiver, and the Vikings are an Adam Thielen or Jefferson injury away from having the one good WR option double teamed every game and no one to throw to.
Except the opposing team, which Kirk has become quite adept at this year. It was a stupid trade then, and it’s still stupid.
And it will always be stupid.
Coaching Shelf Life: I have said this before and I will say it again until people listen to me on this: the shelf life of an NFL coach with his team is five years. If he doesn’t win a championship in that initial five year period, cut the chord and move on. Of the 32 coaches that have won a Super Bowl, all but five—Chuck Knoll, John Madden, Tom Landry, Bill Cowher, and Andy Reid last year—have won them in their first five years with that team. Now, of those five coaches, let’s look at their QB, shall we?
Reid—Patrick Mahomes II…hey, did you guys know his dad played baseball? No, it’s true!
Every one of those coaches are in or will go to the Hall of Fame. Every one of those quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame, will go to the Hall of Fame when their career ends (Big Ben), or are on a career trajectory to the Hall of Fame (Mahomes).
Mike Zimmer is going into the Hall of Inconsistently Good. But he has a Hall of Fame smoke show for a girlfriend. Salut.
The closest Kirk Cousins will get to the Hall of Fame is his jersey being sold in the gift shop.
If you don’t win a championship after five years, the message grows stale, and players start tuning out. Just take a look at the Vikings sideline, every damn week. Either the players have quit on Zimmer, Zimmer has quit on his players, or both.
It’s a Professional Shitshow, and it’s only getting worse. I mean seriously, you get blown out at home by the utterly hapless Atlanta Falcons, and as the head coach you blame the kicker for poor onside kicks?
I can’t even.
Offensive Line: I probably could have led with this, and then ended the article…but hey, I kinda miss you guys and I wanted to hang around awhile. I will not condemn Rick Spielman for ignoring the offensive line—he has addressed the issue—but the fact remains that after eight years with him as the GM, the line has not gotten any better. You could even argue that the more he tries to address it, the worse it gets. The way the quality and depth of the offensive line was exposed after 2016 was a borderline fireable offense then, the quality and philosophy has only made it worse, and here we are with, once again, with an abysmal group outside of Brian O’Neill and Riley Reiff.
The Vikings either cannot properly scout offensive line talent, cannot properly develop it, improperly utilize it, or a combination of all three. For example, and this is just the latest in a line of baffling personnel moves along the line—they draft Ezra Cleveland in the second round of the 2020 draft to be the left tackle of the future. They decide to keep Riley Reiff, which I actually agreed with. So, my thinking is you keep Cleveland at LT, develop him, let him learn behind a quality veteran for a year, move him into the starting job next year, while making him the top backup for injury this year. That seemed like the most obvious plan for a guy that they invested a second round pick in.
But NO! NO NO NO NO SIR! The Vikings move Cleveland around on the line so much he needs to hire Two Men And A Truck, and he lands as the starting right guard.
Are you kidding me?
And this continues a tradition of baffling moves, like kicking Mike Remmers, who was signed as a big time free agent tackle, from RT to LG to end 2017, then RG for 2018, the drafting of TJ Clemmings and WIllie Beavers, etc., etc. The lack of improvement from this position group alone should be enough to warrant a firing, but no.
The Yannick Ngakoue trade: And now today, the feather in the cap, if you will. How bad was the trade for, and then the trade of, Ngakoue? Here, let someone from the Perpetual Outrage Machine tell you:
That’s bad enough, but for a team that needs both high round draft picks and salary cap room, it’s particularly brutal.
The Vikings have entered one of the most uncompetitive phases in franchise history. They are 1-5, they have a quarterback they can’t win with, a defense that can’t stop anybody, a coach who’s message has gone stale, and a GM making moves that are not only not helping the team, but are profoundly hurting the team, both in the short and long term.
It is long past time for the Minnesota Vikings to move on from both Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer.