Regarding Mike Zimmer, if it were up to me, I would fire him and go after Mike McCarthy."
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Our weekly Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Wednesday (Minnesota Wild related) and Friday (Minnesota Timberwolves related). The first and third Tuesdays feature content from our non-active pro sports teams, the Vikings and Twins respectively at the moment.
In our Vikings post-mortem, our Vikings analyst Mike Coenen discusses the embarrassing loss to the Bears, controversial Cousins and Zimmer opinions, has a Super Bowl prediction, and more. Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland spars with him a bit on the first question with fun results.
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Was the Vikings 24-10 loss to the Bears the most disappointing regular season Vikings game ever?
Mike: No. The Vikings have missed making the playoffs many times over the years because they failed to win a particular game, or even the final game of the season. Playoff and Super Bowl losses stand out more for fans and for the organization itself than any particular regular season game, at least they do for me.
Come training camp of 2019, nobody will remember the Viking loss to the Bears on the final day of the 2018 regular season. The loss might have stood out more over time if this was a Viking team that was playing well and looked poised to make a run at the Super Bowl, but they were not that team. The fact that the Vikings failed to live up to their high expectations in 2018 is what will endure over time, not any one particular game.
Erik: It's at times like these that I really wish that Mike and I were still doing podcasts, because I think we'd have fun disagreeing on this one.
The fact that expectations were so high, especially for Cousins, will make this game stick out in Vikings lore, especially if Cousins is a bust. This game might be a footnote if Cousins takes the Vikings to the promised land, but if his tenure continues to be a failure, the loss to the Bears will be something that is pointed to in that context for years to come.
I agree with Mike that playoff and Super Bowl losses stick out more, which is why I thought this question was interesting, because not a lot of regular season games are remembered. But some are, and especially ones that determine whether the team makes the playoffs. Who can forget Paul Allen's classic "NOOOO!!!" call from the time the Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs?
In the context of the whole season, perhaps it wasn't too surprising that the Vikings lost. But the expectations were still there, even in the last game, and for our expensive quarterback and vaunted defense to lay an egg when all they had to do was play passably against a team with nothing to play for has to make it one of the most disappointing regular season Vikings games.
The Vikings were only down 13-3 going into halftime. At that point, the Bears knew the Rams would win and that the Vikings game was fairly meaningless to them. Despite this, and the Vikings season being on the line, they looked lackluster. What happened? How concerning is it?
Mike: In the second half the Bears had little reason to stay motivated. In the fourth quarter the Bears were substituting very generously on the defensive side, yet the Vikings still could not move the ball. Again, I could go back to the poor offensive line of the Vikings as the culprit, but the big-name, highly-paid, skill-position players just did not get the job done either.
Bottom line: the 2018 Vikings just were not very good.
Any other thoughts on the Vikings/Bears game?
It was a good, old-fashioned black and blue division style butt kicking. Vikings got outplayed and out-coached. It is as simple as that.
Hindsight is a drag, but considering that Keenum was better at dealing with a bad offensive line because he could improvise better than Cousins, should have they re-signed him and spent the extra money on the offensive line instead? Would have the Vikings been more successful this year had they done that?
Mike: Yes, in hindsight the Vikings should have kept Keenum and spent the money on the offensive line.
The far majority of blame for the failed season rests at the feet of Viking GM, Rick Spielman. The Cousins’ signing was a great big swing and a miss. A lot of people are pointing the finger at Kirk Cousins, but Spielman knew (or should have known) he was signing a second-tier quarterback who becomes a third- or even fourth-tier quarterback when he does not get the necessary protection. And with no offensive line, it should not be a surprise to anyone that he was reduced to a third- and sometimes fourth-tier level quarterback at certain times during the season. I think with Case Keenum and a better offensive line the Vikings would have made the playoffs.
Cousins had some gaudy stats that were somewhat inflated by big numbers in garbage time, but even with them he was only 15th in QBR. What’s your grade for his season and what is your prediction for his future?
Mike: Kirk cousins gets a C for the season. He was supposed to lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl victory and they didn't even make the playoffs. I would give him a D except if his offensive line is so terrible.
I do think that the Vikings will improve the offensive line this offseasn, Kirk Cousins will settle in next season and have a much better year, and the Vikings should have a ten or eleven win season.
Some fans were calling for Spielman and Zimmer’s heads. What do you think of that steam?
Mike: NFL coaches get fired too quickly these days, and General Managers have too much power. I do think that the termination of Spielman would be justified. He made a pretty big mistake signing Cousins for so much money. This ranks second only to the Herschel Walker trade debacle back in the 1980s as the biggest off-the-field blunder by the Viking organization. The Vikings will be feeling the financial ramifications of the Cousins’ contract for the next few season as they will be forced to let certain key players go because they cannot sign them and remain under the salary cap. Thanks, Rick Spielman!
In regard to Mike Zimmer, he is no Bud Grant, but he is good enough for now. If it were up to me, I would fire him and go after Mike McCarthy.
After the offensive line, what should the Vikings top priorities be in the offseason?
Mike: Defensive backs. The NFL is so pass-oriented now that you need really good corners and safeties, and lots of them in the event of injury, which is inevitable.
Any other thoughts on the future of the Vikings?
Mike: Despite the disappointing season, the Vikings still have a good core nucleus that has about a 2-3 season window. On paper, they are about as good as anybody else in the league. However, a lot of things have to come together for a team to be successful. Intangibles like injuries, player chemistry, and even luck play a major role over the course of a season.
Entering into the 2019 season, the Minnesota Vikings should be a playoff contending team. The expectations will not be as high going into next season, which will be to their benefit, but many touts and prognosticators will be picking the Vikings to make the playoffs, and perhaps even win their division. And if the stars align, they will.
What is your Super Bowl prediction? Who will flop and who will flourish in the playoffs?
Mike: "I think it will be the Saints vs the Chargers," said Erik Ritland to Mike Coenen back in September. I was extremely doubtful, but this could actually happen. I do predict that the Saints will make to the Super Bowl, but the road for the Chargers will be much more difficult. Having to play on Wildcard weekend, and on the road, will make things hard for the Chargers going forward even if they manage to beat the Ravens.
I think we will see two classic conferences championship games with the Chiefs beating the Patriots in the AFC, and the Rams losing to the Saints in the NFC. The Saints will beat the Chiefs in a ridiculously high scoring affair that most people will love, while football purists, such as myself, will hate. It will be a showcase for how the NFL has basically morphed into Arena Football.
Mike Coenen is a writer, historian, professor, and author from Little Falls, Minnesota. He is the Vikings analyst for Rambling On and is the co-host of the Minnesota Sports Ramble podcast. Since 2016 he has been creating content for Rambling On as sports analyst and podcast co-host.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Founder of Rambling On, he has written hundreds of articles and hosted almost a hundred podcasts. He also directs all of the content on Rambling On, created and maintains the website, and is social media content director. Previously, he was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music by visiting his music page or buying his music on BandCamp, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.