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Mike Zimmer & Rick Spielman Fired


Seth Stohs
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This has been mentioned in the Offseason Thread as well, but I think a separate thread on the Vikings changes makes sense. 

On Monday morning, the Vikings officially fired Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman. It seems like the right and easy decision, but certainly not easy. 

The Zimmer news was leaked on Sunday, but the thought was Spielman might stick. On Monday, both lost their jobs. So, here are some topics for discussion. 

  • Do you agree with both firings?
  • What are the top 2-3 reasons that each was fired? 
  • What are the traits that you would want to see in a new GM and a new head coach?
  • Who would you like to see get those jobs? 

My responses: 

1.) Yeah, I think that it was the right timing. Zimmer has done a lot of good, but he hasn't been willing to adapt to the changing game, and his defensive prowess has taken a hit the last couple of seasons. As for Spielman, again, I think he's done a good job. I actually have liked his draft strategy, even though there have been missed picks and an inability to find a great quarterback... though I think Kirk is fine. 

2.) Zimmer: hard-headedness, lack of defense, inability to change and his responses to questions about Kellen Mond and similar.  Spielman: just need a change, maybe draft issues, maybe the Cousins extension, and a complete inability to find a competent offensive line. 

3.) GM: willing to think differently, understanding of today's game, and ability to work with the salary cap, communicator.   Head Coach: Leadership. That's all. I do want him to be able to hire a strong and creative offensive coach and let him do his job. But also hire a strong defensive coordinator. Communicator. 

4.) We all hear the same names, and I can't pretend to know the leadership or communication styles of each. I do think that Eric Bienemy deserves the opportunity. I like the idea of a young, energetic type like Kellen Moore. So, we'll see. 

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I was ready for Zimmer to go last year. They're unwillingness to adjust was bad. He still doesn't do clock management well. His defense was only good when filled with first round picks, so he didn't really seem to be done kind of genius. Plus way too conservative on fourth down. They never put teams away, out of what i assume was fear on making mistakes. 

Spileman is a harder decision for me. But I understand letting him go. I feel with better coaching, these teams were better, but I assume he picked this coach.

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It was time for both to go. The organization needs a fresh perspective from the outside. Someone who will do an audit of everything and everyone in the building. 

There’s no guarantee the next hires will take the team to the next level, but we know exactly who Spielman and Zimmer are. They were not going to lead us to a super bowl berth. 

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1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

I was ready for Zimmer to go last year. They're unwillingness to adjust was bad. He still doesn't do clock management well. His defense was only good when filled with first round picks, so he didn't really seem to be done kind of genius. Plus way too conservative on fourth down. They never put teams away, out of what i assume was fear on making mistakes. 

Spileman is a harder decision for me. But I understand letting him go. I feel with better coaching, these teams were better, but I assume he picked this coach.

Couldn't agree more.  He's bad with the clock and he fails my biggest test for any manager/coach: is the whole more than the sum of the parts?  Mike Zimmer always felt like he had to be handed exactly what he needed to be successful and never coached anyone to be more than that.  He didn't take a bunch of grinders, use what they do well, and fit his defense to them.  His whole always felt LESS than the sum of it's parts.  Even when the defense were good to great, did they ever feel intimidating?  Did you ever feel like the Vikings were up by 3, needed a cold-blooded defensive stop, and you just knew they'd come up, kick ass, and take that game?  I never did.

Zimmer hired bad assistants that couldn't coach offense and forced them to coach his way.  He never found a coach who could help his offensive line or his corners progress.  Or his quarterbacks.  He just needed to go.

Spielman's biggest sin was allowing Zimmer so much freedom and deference to make all those mistakes.  Chief of which was letting him hire family.

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I was thinking....there are two players that really crystalize my belief that firing Zimmer was the right move.  (But being wary of declaring the Spielman firing the right move)

1. Stefon Diggs - Spielman took this dude with a 5th round pick.  That's a career maker as a GM.  How did that divorce happen?  Zimmer, so damn committed to running, was purposely downplaying the usage of his best weapons to fit his mantra.  Not change his mantra to match his players.  He drove a possible future HOF receiver out of town on stubbornness.  

2. Justin Jefferson.  We started 2020 1-5 in no small part because we adamantly refused to play Jefferson from Day 1.  Once again, Zimmer refused to talk about young player readiness or why he wasn't on the field.  He just sat him.  When he finally hit the field....the team started turning it around.  He is so unwilling to trust young players that a rookie of the year who broke passing records couldn't even see the field.

Zimmer in a nutshell.  I like the guy, wish him the best, but those two situations highlight why I'm happy today.

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2 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

I was thinking....there are two players that really crystalize my belief that firing Zimmer was the right move.  (But being wary of declaring the Spielman firing the right move)

1. Stefon Diggs - Spielman took this dude with a 5th round pick.  That's a career maker as a GM.  How did that divorce happen?  Zimmer, so damn committed to running, was purposely downplaying the usage of his best weapons to fit his mantra.  Not change his mantra to match his players.  He drove a possible future HOF receiver out of town on stubbornness.  

2. Justin Jefferson.  We started 2020 1-5 in no small part because we adamantly refused to play Jefferson from Day 1.  Once again, Zimmer refused to talk about young player readiness or why he wasn't on the field.  He just sat him.  When he finally hit the field....the team started turning it around.  He is so unwilling to trust young players that a rookie of the year who broke passing records couldn't even see the field.

Zimmer in a nutshell.  I like the guy, wish him the best, but those two situations highlight why I'm happy today.

I wouldn't be surprised if Wyatt Davis is a legit starter next year ....

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Zimmer's whole philosophy centers around moving the line of scrimmage with the run. It uses up the clock and keeps the defense fresh. OK....but you gotta throw downfield once in awhile to keep the defense honest. Because of where I live, I don't get to watch every Vikings game, but several of the games I watched Cousins clearly was not going to throw downfield, so the defense effectively only had to defend about one-tenth of the field, causing a lot of three and outs. Was Cousins not reading the field effectively (Cousins' fault)?...did he not have enough time because of the bad O-line (Spielman's fault)?......was he not getting the right plays (Zimmer's fault)?  

All the games they lost this year in the final seconds...why were they playing prevent with such a lousy secondary? Should Zimmer have brought more pressure? Was Spielman not providing the right personnel?

I realize I'm all over the place, but to at least partially answer Seth's question, I think the ultimate goal of the new hires should be a GM and HC who have a good relationship and are on the same page as to the overall game strategy and roster construction. I think that would be a good start.

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I'm tired of the stubbornness. You can't always play the game the way YOU want it to be played. And the more you complain about the way YOU want to play the game, the more the other team knows exactly what YOU want to do. This is the NFL, the Vikings are an average team, how conceded is it to think you have a special Viking way to win games but nobody else is doing it? 

The one lesson everyone should have long ago learned from Bill Belichick is that you don't win by doing what you think you are good at, you win by doing what your opponent is BAD at. You have to check your ego and you have to be flexible. Neither were things Zimmer could ever do.

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53 minutes ago, LewFordLives said:

Zimmer's whole philosophy centers around moving the line of scrimmage with the run. It uses up the clock and keeps the defense fresh. OK....but you gotta throw downfield once in awhile to keep the defense honest. Because of where I live, I don't get to watch every Vikings game, but several of the games I watched Cousins clearly was not going to throw downfield, so the defense effectively only had to defend about one-tenth of the field, causing a lot of three and outs. Was Cousins not reading the field effectively (Cousins' fault)?...did he not have enough time because of the bad O-line (Spielman's fault)?......was he not getting the right plays (Zimmer's fault)?  

All the games they lost this year in the final seconds...why were they playing prevent with such a lousy secondary? Should Zimmer have brought more pressure? Was Spielman not providing the right personnel?

I realize I'm all over the place, but to at least partially answer Seth's question, I think the ultimate goal of the new hires should be a GM and HC who have a good relationship and are on the same page as to the overall game strategy and roster construction. I think that would be a good start.

IMO there was no discord between Zimmer and Spielman.  Those two big DTs?  That was Spielman delivering Zimmer's request.  (Zimmer's coaching them still lead to a terrible run D )  All the DB picks?  Spielman catering to Zimmer.  Barr over Aaron Donald?  Zimmer's guy.

If anything....Spielman was too much in service of his coach.  His coach just didn't deliver when he was given everything he wanted.

GMs and coaches have to be working together.  But sometimes a productive working relationship is being able to tell someone they have it wrong and give some pushback.

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13 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

IMO there was no discord between Zimmer and Spielman.  Those two big DTs?  That was Spielman delivering Zimmer's request.  (Zimmer's coaching them still lead to a terrible run D )  All the DB picks?  Spielman catering to Zimmer.  Barr over Aaron Donald?  Zimmer's guy.

If anything....Spielman was too much in service of his coach.  His coach just didn't deliver when he was given everything he wanted.

GMs and coaches have to be working together.  But sometimes a productive working relationship is being able to tell someone they have it wrong and give some pushback.

I didn't mind Spielman deferring to Zimmer when it came to defensive picks; surely Zimmer was a better mind about those. They did collaborate on quite a few good defensive players.

But as soon as Zimmer made it clear that his system was going to rely on the Vikings spending 1st and 2nd round picks on DBs just about every other year, Spielman should have stopped and said, hold on a minute, this is a terrible strategy. 

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46 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I didn't mind Spielman deferring to Zimmer when it came to defensive picks; surely Zimmer was a better mind about those. They did collaborate on quite a few good defensive players.

But as soon as Zimmer made it clear that his system was going to rely on the Vikings spending 1st and 2nd round picks on DBs just about every other year, Spielman should have stopped and said, hold on a minute, this is a terrible strategy. 

Agreed.  He turned Barr, a 6'5 250 pound gazelle into a lunchpail dude with no splash plays.  Every CB played 15 yards off and was, at best, ok.  He never made all those investments pay off into something ferocious.  

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Vikings talent is good, but not overwhelming. The coach wasn’t able to get more out of them than .500 since Cousins was acquired. That’s enough for dismissal right there. The nepotism on the coaching staff required a playoff team for them (the coaching staff) to be retained. Didn’t happen. 
 I think Spielman has an eye for talent, but the pieces never fit and the contract extensions to Smith and Cook don’t look smart. The acquisition of Cousins was make or break and they broke. 

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2 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

The stuff about helping young players feel part of the team is a damning indictment. Makes sense why the Wilfs but  communication.

Who knows what really went on behind the scenes, and a player bears responsibility for his bad play, but I remember thinking at the time that Zimmer was not the best person to deal with a rookie like Dan Carlson having a shaky start.  Perhaps for a while, that might have just been dealing with kickers in general.  I have a feeling Zimmer does not have a lot of patience for things that are not in his wheelhouse. 

Didn't someone, and his father, take a parting comment about how Zimmer treated players a couple years ago?  Not that you don't have to take comments like that with a grain of salt, but the comments today are not totally out of the blue.

I think the coach often gets blame for things beyond his control, but I don't think there are too many people, maybe even Zimmer himself, that did not feel it was time to move on.

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5 minutes ago, D. Hocking said:

Who knows what really went on behind the scenes, and a player bears responsibility for his bad play, but I remember thinking at the time that Zimmer was not the best person to deal with a rookie like Dan Carlson having a shaky start.  Perhaps for a while, that might have just been dealing with kickers in general.  I have a feeling Zimmer does not have a lot of patience for things that are not in his wheelhouse. 

Didn't someone, and his father, take a parting comment about how Zimmer treated players a couple years ago?  Not that you don't have to take comments like that with a grain of salt, but the comments today are not totally out of the blue.

I think the coach often gets blame for things beyond his control, but I don't think there are too many people, maybe even Zimmer himself, that did not feel it was time to move on.

Rhett Ellison is who you are talking about.

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9 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

I was thinking....there are two players that really crystalize my belief that firing Zimmer was the right move.  (But being wary of declaring the Spielman firing the right move)

1. Stefon Diggs - Spielman took this dude with a 5th round pick.  That's a career maker as a GM.  How did that divorce happen?  Zimmer, so damn committed to running, was purposely downplaying the usage of his best weapons to fit his mantra.  Not change his mantra to match his players.  He drove a possible future HOF receiver out of town on stubbornness.  

2. Justin Jefferson.  We started 2020 1-5 in no small part because we adamantly refused to play Jefferson from Day 1.  Once again, Zimmer refused to talk about young player readiness or why he wasn't on the field.  He just sat him.  When he finally hit the field....the team started turning it around.  He is so unwilling to trust young players that a rookie of the year who broke passing records couldn't even see the field.

Zimmer in a nutshell.  I like the guy, wish him the best, but those two situations highlight why I'm happy today.

This isn't quite right though. Jefferson was a starter from week 3 on. By the time we were 1-5, he had already had three 100+ yard games and was second to Theilen in targets. We didn't start turning it around until the defense played better. The average score for those first six weeks was 32-26. The offense wasn't the problem.

I complained a lot about Zimmer's offensive philosophy. It seemed to me with the weapons we had, he should have an offense that runs up the score using his passing weapons and then uses a strong run game to close out the games. He clearly had problems with the OC over the years and running Cook into the ground was a pretty cruddy philosophy. But you are just misremembering on Jefferson.

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4 hours ago, stringer bell said:

Vikings talent is good, but not overwhelming. The coach wasn’t able to get more out of them than .500 since Cousins was acquired. That’s enough for dismissal right there. The nepotism on the coaching staff required a playoff team for them (the coaching staff) to be retained. Didn’t happen. 
 I think Spielman has an eye for talent, but the pieces never fit and the contract extensions to Smith and Cook don’t look smart. The acquisition of Cousins was make or break and they broke. 

Yeah, the nepostism in coaching is sickening.

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Yeah, it was time. Zimmer and Spielman had been given plenty of chances, and it just wasn't going to work. We haven't gotten close to 2017 roster-wise or coaching-wise, and it's time to take a step back and re-assess things. I am impressed the Wilfs were willing to fire Spielman when it sounded like they were going to promote him to a different position.

As for the new coach, I would be looking for a guy who knows how to lead. That may be a cliche, but many NFL teams are having GM-HC-player issues that teams with more competent leadership are avoiding. I'd also like to find an offensive-minded coach who can maintain stability for our QB, rather than have a revolving door of OCs (caused by some being too good at their job, and others being too incompetent). 

10 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

Joe Judge QB sneaked on 2nd and 3rd down for punting room and keeps his job.  Brian Flores miraculously pulls a .500 coaching record out of a tanking effort and gets fired.

Yeah, NFL has no racial problems in their coaching at all.  /sarcasm

I hate to be the devil's advocate here... but from what I've read it has come down to ownership in those scenarios. The Giants' owner John Mara values stability over all else, and thinks they have to give a HC at least 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross has little patience (3 years without playoffs == unacceptable, apparently) and has usually fired his coaches very quickly. It's been reported that Flores' relationship with Tua is not good and he was pushing hard for DeShaun Watson... it's not the best look when you're trying to ditch your starting QB for one who's in the midst of sexual assault charges.

Still, I like Flores and I don't think he deserved to be fired. Of all the guys fired, he easily deserves a shot the most. Heck, I'd put him in my top tier of HC candidates. Going 5-11 with a practice squad roster in 2019 and then 10-6 with a very young roster was incredibly impressive. 2021 was a disappointment as they started out 1-7, but recovered to finish 9-8. Though if he didn't like Tua, he's probably not going to love Kirk at his price tag...

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34 minutes ago, Danchat said:

Yeah, it was time. Zimmer and Spielman had been given plenty of chances, and it just wasn't going to work. We haven't gotten close to 2017 roster-wise or coaching-wise, and it's time to take a step back and re-assess things. I am impressed the Wilfs were willing to fire Spielman when it sounded like they were going to promote him to a different position.

As for the new coach, I would be looking for a guy who knows how to lead. That may be a cliche, but many NFL teams are having GM-HC-player issues that teams with more competent leadership are avoiding. I'd also like to find an offensive-minded coach who can maintain stability for our QB, rather than have a revolving door of OCs (caused by some being too good at their job, and others being too incompetent). 

I hate to be the devil's advocate here... but from what I've read it has come down to ownership in those scenarios. The Giants' owner John Mara values stability over all else, and thinks they have to give a HC at least 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross has little patience (3 years without playoffs == unacceptable, apparently) and has usually fired his coaches very quickly. It's been reported that Flores' relationship with Tua is not good and he was pushing hard for DeShaun Watson... it's not the best look when you're trying to ditch your starting QB for one who's in the midst of sexual assault charges.

Still, I like Flores and I don't think he deserved to be fired. Of all the guys fired, he easily deserves a shot the most. Heck, I'd put him in my top tier of HC candidates. Going 5-11 with a practice squad roster in 2019 and then 10-6 with a very young roster was incredibly impressive. 2021 was a disappointment as they started out 1-7, but recovered to finish 9-8. Though if he didn't like Tua, he's probably not going to love Kirk at his price tag...

Every time this sort of thing happens you can point to specific things that justify it.  Nevertheless...the pattern persists.

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8 minutes ago, RpR said:

Well there was an article on MSN today in which Zimmer put a lot of blame on his self for not being more involved in the offense and letting them hire Cousins over Keenum.

He saw Cousins as a main reason for the Vikings failure.

Keenum was terrible after he left. If the head coach can't delegate, that's his issue. 

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43 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

I cannot find this article.  Link please?

Zimmer saying that reinforces the cancerous culture info coming out.

MSN puts, quick head-line links from odd sources and I cannot find it again so I will delete my posts.

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I’m in agreement with @Danchaton the HC search. I don’t really want someone who will call either offense or defense play calls. I want a CEO type who will delegate the play calls to their coordinators. Worst case if the coordinator flops, then the HC steps in to take over.

Lots of fans are laser focused on HC candidates that come from an offense background. I don’t care if we hire another defense focused HC or go offense. We need a leader who can empower and motivate our young players. 

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