Mike Zimmer fired partly for saying what Minnesota Vikings still refuse to admit

Kirk Cousins gestures toward mediocrity as Mike Zimmer looks on.

Kirk Cousins gestures toward mediocrity as Mike Zimmer looks on.
Photo: Getty Images

Wait, there’s still a debate about the quarterbacking abilities of Kirk Cousins? I thought we were past this, like the, “Is Joe Flacco elite?” argument. Apparently, new Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell will continue living out a Twitter argument in real time.


With former GM Rick Spielman gone, coach Mike Zimmer fired, and new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hiring O’Connell, who coached Cousins in Washington, it appears Cousins is the last man left yelling “You like that!” from last season’s Skol shouting match.

A story from The Athletic looking at Minnesota’s gamble on O’Connell featured some details on Zimmer’s departure. The coach was let go after finishing 8-9, and it wasn’t just missing the playoffs that got him fired. According to Chad Graff, the resting-grumpy-faced coach could no longer hide his grumpiness over his QB.

Here’s a segment:

“Zimmer complained openly in coaching meetings about Cousins, and some of Zimmer’s top lieutenants echoed the sentiment. Zimmer didn’t feel the quarterback made enough ‘winning plays,’ that he didn’t take the necessary shots to help lead the Vikings to victory, and that he didn’t elevate his teammates.”

Differing views over the most important player on a football team can lead to terminations. I doubt Justin Jefferson will get traded or released for audibly expressing his unhappiness with Cousins so loudly that cameras caught it, but the team sided with Cousins over Stefon Diggs, so you never know.

I understand there was a lot going on in Miami, but Brian Flores’ affinity for Deshaun Watson — and not Tua Tagovailoa — was one of the reasons he was let go, despite putting a competitive product on the field.


Zimmer was 72-56-1 as head coach of Minnesota, and he even made an NFC title game with Case Keenum under center in 2017. A year after being on the brink of a Super Bowl, Keenum was pushed out, and Cousins was brought in. The team has underachieved in three of its four seasons with Cousins at quarterback, but then-GM Spielman refused to acknowledge his mistake, bristling at Zimmer’s treatment of the guy he wouldn’t admit isn’t THE guy.

Here’s some more from Graff:

“But that view [of Cousins] wasn’t shared by everyone. Some, especially in the front office, thought Zimmer didn’t handle the situation well. They acknowledged to Zimmer that Cousins isn’t a perfect quarterback but felt Zimmer’s job as head coach was to get the most out of the quarterback — and undercutting his play in coaching meetings didn’t help.”


I’m sorry if Zimmer wasn’t MacGyver with the roster. Yes, his late-game clock management and prevent defense contributed to Minnesota’s fair share of collapses, but you gave him a fully loaded Lexus SUV with an engine from a Chevy Malibu. No amount of tricks or strategy are going to offset average quarterback play. Bill Belichick utilized every ounce of his football brain to get New England and Mac Jones to the postseason, and even he couldn’t mask a flaw that is more commonly fatal than any other fatal flaw.

O’Connell was the QB coach for Cousins when they were both in Washington, and that had to play a big part in Adofo-Mensah’s decision to reunite the duo. Cousins threw for 4,000-plus yards, 27 TDs, and 13 interceptions during their one season together in 2017, and had more than 4,200 yards with 33 TDs and seven picks last year.


The team reportedly fielded a call about his availability from the Panthers, and he’s in the final year of that fully guaranteed contract. Adofo-Mensah said “everything is in play,” but that came right after he called Cousins an “incredibly consistent passer,” according to ProFootballTalk. Someone in that organization hasn’t given up on Cousins yet, and Minnesota fans are most likely going to be subjected to five seasons with Captain Unvaccinated as their starter.

It’s never been easier to put up numbers as a quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger could barely complete a 15-yard out route during his last season as a professional, and he still had 3,740 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions. The aforementioned Jones had 3,801, 22 TDs and 13 interceptions in his rookie season.


Cousins is surrounded by one of the most talented group of skill players in the league. Pair any average quarterback with Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Jefferson, and you’ll get enough production to make you think there’s more to be unlocked.

However, we’ve seen the best Cousins has to offer. He’s already pulled over, he can’t pull over any more. Zimmer figured that out and voiced his displeasure. If only someone in the organization would’ve listened.

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