Souhan: Awful loss final proof Spielman-Zimmer era must end

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·3 min read
Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
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GREEN BAY, WIS. — The Vikings might have been better off playing Kellen Mond instead of Sean Mannion at quarterback.

Mike Zimmer didn't think so.

The Vikings could have at least played Mond throughout the fourth quarter, to take a look at him.

Zimmer disagreed.

Why? "I see him every day,'' Zimmer said after the game.

The Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs on a cold Sunday night at Lambeau Field, in a 37-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

If Zimmer thought he was going to be around for more than one more week, he might have found reason to give Mond some game experience.

Instead, Zimmer stuck with Mannion, who missed time only when dealing with an injury Zimmer didn't specify.

Zimmer's actions during the game and tone afterward indicated that he knows he will be fired soon.

That's what should happen.

The Vikings are 14-19 since their only playoff victory of the past four years. They will have missed the playoffs in consecutive years despite a roster filled with high-priced veterans.

That they invested their largest contract in an unvaccinated quarterback who was unavailable because of COVID is not an excuse, but an indictment.

Rick Spielman built a lousy football team.

Zimmer built a mediocre coaching staff that couldn't elevate that team.

Kirk Cousins' absence because of COVID meant that the Vikings were likely to get blown out on Sunday night against a superior opponent, but his presence can't be overrated. Cousins is the master of coming up small in big situations, so let's not pretend he would have engineered this upset.

With one meaningless game remaining this season, what are the Vikings' owners to do?

The popular debate this week will revolve around whether Zimmer should be fired immediately, or after the conclusion of the season.

"Why not get a head start on interviewing candidates?'' is the talk-radio theme.

The answer: If you fire Zimmer without immediately bringing in a new general manager, you are having Spielman conduct interviews for the new coach.

That would be a mistake whatever way you slice it.

If Spielman is on his way out, he shouldn't be involved in the process. If Spielman is going to be shifted into an advisory role, then he shouldn't be allowed to bigfoot his imminent successor.

If Spielman is staying, then what the Wilfs are telling you is that they aren't serious about winning a championship.

There is no evidence that the Spielman-Zimmer team can build a Super Bowl winner. Their only trip to the NFC Championship Game, which they lost by 31 points, was made possible by one of the strangest plays in NFL history — a quality defensive back closing his eyes and not making contact with a teed-up receiver.

Without the Minneapolis Miracle, the Spielman-Zimmer brain trust would have one playoff victory in their eight years together.

Spielman treated his roster as if it were filled with champions and one player away from a title.

Unfortunately for him, that player was Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, not Cousins. The Vikings haven't been over .500 since the end of the 2019 season.

Spielman struggled to build a quality offensive line, and he and Zimmer combined to build a poor secondary.

Sunday provided the ultimate proof that Spielman is not good at judging, drafting or developing quarterbacks.

In do-or-dire game against their primary rival, the Vikings chose to play a poor backup (Mannion) instead of the quarterback they chose in the third round of the last draft (Mond).

Mond has been practicing in the Vikings' system since this spring, and the Vikings didn't think he was better than Mannion, who had thrown three interceptions and no touchdowns in his NFL career.

That's an indictment of Spielman, and Mond, and perhaps the Vikings' inexperienced offensive coaching staff.

Since hiring Zimmer, the Wilfs have strived for stability.

It's time for them to aim higher.

It's time for them to find a new general manager, coach and quarterback.