Minnesota Vikings Fire Head Coach Mike Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman After Disappointing Season
After eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Mike Zimmer's time with the team has come to a close. The same can be said for general manager Rick Spielman, who has been with the team in the role of GM since 2012.
The announcements, which came in just after 8 am Monday morning, formalized what many had speculated through the waning weeks of the 2021 season.
NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero first shared that Spielman was being let go, followed immediately after by news Zimmer was also being fired.
During Zimmer's 8 seasons with the Vikings, he led the team to a 72-56-1 record and three playoff appearances. The Zimmer-led Vikings seemed to develop an every-other-year playoff appearance pattern, missing the playoffs his first season with the team, then making the playoffs in the 2015, 2017, and 2019 seasons.
The most notable of those was the 2017 season, where the team rode backup quarterback Case Keenum into the playoffs and had the "Minnesota Miracle" propel the team to the NFC Championship game against the Eagles.
As fans know, Zimmer's signature is his defensive prowess. He was brought in to fix the defensive issues the team had developed under previous head coach Leslie Frazier, with a team that finished near the bottom in defensive statistics in 2013. The first several years of Zimmer's tenure with the Vikings did see the defense return to prominence, playing a significant role in the team's success.
In the last two years of Zimmer's time with the Vikings have seen his defense sink toward the bottom of the NFL's team performances. In 2021, the Vikings defense was 7th worst in rushing yards, 5th worst in passing yards, and middle of the pack in rushing and passing touchdowns allowed over the season.
Spielman, who had been with the team since 2006, moved into the role of general manager in 2012. In his first role with the team, he served as vice president of player personnel. He had involvement with the drafting of star players like Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith, but also players like Christian Ponder, Blair Walsh, and Laquon Treadwell. He also made offseason moves like bringing in Kirk Cousins and adding undrafted players like Adam Thielen, Andrew Sendejo, and Marcus Sherels.
The ownership of the Vikings released a formal statement late Monday morning on the firing of Zimmer and Spielman, sharing gratitude to the work of both Rick and Mike during their tenure. They expressed that while the decision was not easy to let both Zimmer and Spielman go, they felt it was time for new leadership to "elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships."
They went on to say that the search for replacements will be conducted internally, and will begin immediately. They share that they are "determined to have sustained success and bring Vikings fans the Super Bowl championships they expect and deserve".
In the early afternoon hours of Monday, the Vikings shared a statement from former general manager Rick Spielman, who noted he is "honored to have been part of the Minnesota Vikings organization and this incredible community for the past 16 years".
He went on to call Vikings fans among the most passionate in the league and thank the rest of the coaches, players, and staff for their efforts over the years. He went on to thank the Wilfs for their support and belief in him over the years.
With the Vikings cutting ties with both Zimmer and Spielman, it remains unclear what direction the team will go from here. A number of other teams have also fired head coaches as the 2021 season draws to a close, with the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, and Denver Broncos also making announcements following the close of their season.