Viking head coach ‘hot seat’ chatter escalates

November 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, United States; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Love it, hate it or just tolerate it, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is the second most likely NFL captain to be fired, according to punters after Week 1.

The Vikings lost an awkward game to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, leading a game plan strewn with penalties. In the end, Minnesota was penalized 12 times and lost the game in overtime, 27-24. As 3.5-point outsiders before the contest, the Vikings’ game in Cincinnati was their “easiest” in the first month of the season, with the next three opponents being the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks of Seattle and the Cleveland Browns. Now the Vikings must steal one of those games – while continuing to tread water with an extra home win – to erase the vile memory of penalty-fueled futility among the Bengals.

And due to the 0-1 start until 2021 – coupled with seven other seasons under his belt – Zimmer is embarked on ‘hot seat’ talks.

Winning heals the hot seat blues. That’s what the Vikings will have to do in Arizona on Sunday – or earn three straight home wins to classify the first two games as outliers. Otherwise, Zimmer will remain on this list. Whenever the Vikings lose, the cries for his dismissal will increase in volume.

Overall, Vikings’ Zimmer brand is pretty good. From 2014 to now, Minnesota’s winning-and-losing record of 64-48-1 (.571) ranks eighth in the NFL among all teams for winning percentage over the past eight seasons. In fact, Zimmer outperforms 24 other franchises.

But his teams – dotted with talents like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith – should be better that eighth in the league. Minnesota unfortunately didn’t win a Super Bowl, so when Zimmer doesn’t get the job done, it’s time to find a coach who can. It’s anti-Zimmer sentiment anyway. A narrative in the Viking sphere of influence looks a bit like this: Zimmer favors kindness that falters over mediocrity – not greatness. Only a hypothetical new coach can take the team to a Lombardi Trophy – that’s the working theory. It could be Eric Bieniemy, PJ Fleck, or the most prominent young offensive coordinator available in January. Options will be available for the Vikings if they actually leave Zimmer.

It’s still a long way off, however. If the Vikings win their next four games or so, the Super Bowl trajectory will reappear. This is how fast the digital age is changing. A defeat is an invitation to the end of the world, tearing to the studs and crying. A road win over the suddenly good Cardinals would prompt the same overreaction this week to state something like, “I knew this team had what was in them.” Contemplative and rational thinking about the entirety of an NFL product or season seems to be losing importance.

In other odds, the Vikings’ Super Bowl odds also dropped after week 1. Minnesota is now in the same league as the Denver Broncos for Super Bowl odds, holding a +4800 silver line before the Cardinals game.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. Its Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).

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