Zimmer, who was hired in 2014, was 72-56-1 in the regular season in eight seasons at the helm of the Vikings. He won two NFC North titles and made three total playoff games, compiling a 2-3 playoff record.
The Vikings had enjoyed success in odd years under Zimmer, winning the division in 2015 and 2017, as well as a playoff berth in 2019.
But Minnesota missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 2020 and 2021, the first time this has happened under Zimmer. The Vikings have failed to advance to the playoffs in three of the past four years.
Minnesota had a loss record in Zimmer’s last two seasons, going 7-9 in 2020 before an 8-9 season that ended Sunday with a home win over the Bears.
The Vikings 2021 campaign was defined by close matches, as the Vikings played 12 straight games (weeks 5-16) which were decided by a score. In total, Minnesota have played 14 of those games in 2021, going 6-8 in those close games.
A longtime defensive coordinator, Zimmer was hired in January 2014 to take a tough stance and rebuild a Viking defense that placed bottom in the league in 2013.
And while this daring attitude led to an overall winning record in eight seasons, it was not without a dearth of difficult circumstances.
Minnesota went 7-9 in Zimmer’s first season, as defense improved, but offense languished without running back Adrian Peterson, who has been suspended for all but one of the games this season.
The Vikings surprised the league in 2015 with an 11-5 record and won the NFC North crown on the final day of the season with a road victory over the Packers.
But the Vikings had just one playoff goal on a frigid January day, with the scoreboard posting a 10-9 loss after a field goal shot sailed left into the last seconds.
Undeterred, Zimmer had high expectations at the start of the 2016 season. These were shattered, however, when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic non-contact knee and leg injury within two weeks of the match. start of the season.
Minnesota always started the season hot 5-0, but faded into the home stretch to finish 8-8. Zimmer also faced many personal struggles, including emergency eye surgery that forced him to miss a game.
Zimmer’s best season came in 2017, as he led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the NFC title game. Anchored by a defense that topped the league in points and allowed yards per game – and set an NFL record for best third-down defense – the Vikings smothered their opponents and allowed backup quarterback Case Keenum to lead the offensive effectively.
After passing the Saints with the “Minneapolis Miracle” victory, the Vikings did not show up against the Eagles in a 38-7 loss at the NFC Championship. The loss deprived Minnesota of the chance to play in Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium.
While the first four years of the Zimmer era were marked by strong defenses and instability at the quarterback level, the last four were marked by the reverse.
Minnesota signed quarterback Kirk Cousins in the 2018 offseason, but the Vikings missed the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record, failing to win the home final against the Bears. that would have brought Minnesota into the dance.
Zimmer continued his odd success in 2019 with a 10-6 record and a place for the Wild Card, as well as another stunning victory over the Saints. His once-best-in-the-league defense began to deteriorate despite the playoff victory and an unbalanced playoff loss to the 49ers.
The past two seasons have been almost mirror images of each other with poor defensive performance, too much offensive inconsistency and an inability to win crucial games when it mattered most.
The Vikings haven’t gone over 0.500 since the end of the 2019 regular season – spanning 33 games – despite six different chances of getting there. Minnesota is one of five teams – along with the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons – not to have passed 0.500 since the start of the 2020 season.
Minnesota’s defense, for which Zimmer called plays for eight seasons, fell short of recent standards. The Vikings were 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed in 2020, then were 31st in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed this season.
Zimmer said the 2020 unit was “the worst I have ever had.” The 2021 defense ranked lower in some measures.
Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota will be remembered for his pragmatic approach, an impressive period of defensive play and a reshuffle of offensive coordinators.
The Vikings have used six offensive coordinators in eight seasons under Zimmer, with Minnesota finishing in the top 10 in points scored just once.
Mark and Zygi Wilf said the search for the Vikings’ next general manager and head coach will begin immediately. The next head coach will be the 10th in franchise history.