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Details Continue to Emerge About Messy End of Vikings' Mike Zimmer-Rick Spielman Era

Zimmer and Spielman reportedly hadn't spoken in months when the two were let go last week.

It's been a week since the Vikings fired head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, ushering in the biggest changes to the franchise's leadership structure since the Wilf family purchased the team in 2005.

Later that same day, comments from veteran leaders like Eric Kendricks and Brian O'Neill shed some light on the Vikings' culture problem under Zimmer and Spielman. But new reports and details have continued to emerge over the week since the two firings, making it even clearer that things weren't functioning properly and a clean sweep was needed.

Let's dive into a few notes from the past several days that touch on the end of a long, mostly successful regime.

Prime Time: Zimmer and Spielman hadn't been speaking

Zimmer and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders — now the coach at Jackson State University and an analyst with Barstool Sports — have been good friends ever since Zimmer was Sanders' position coach on the late-1990s Dallas Cowboys. There was a fun moment during this season when Sanders kept trying to call Zimmer while the coach was doing a press conference. They've been close for decades.

So Sanders' recent comments on Zimmer's firing are quite notable, even if they only give one side of the story.

"We spoke the other day," Sanders said on Barstool's Pro Football Football Show. "He and their GM [Spielman] hadn't spoken in months. And it was just a downward spiral."

"When you look back at this, just look at the commonality of the guys that got fired," Sanders continued. "Look at all the guys that got fired and then look to the quarterback play, and there's a common thread to each and every one of them."

It's not surprising that Sanders would take Zimmer's side and lob blame at Kirk Cousins for how things went south with the Vikings in recent years. But the more interesting part of his comments, by far, is about Zimmer and Spielman not speaking for months. If that's true, the two main leaders of the organization not communicating during a crucial season for both of their futures is an incredibly damning detail. That just shows how much of a disconnect existed at the top of the power structure.

Star Tribune: Zimmer-Spielman Vikings were 'team on edge'

If you want more details on the end of the Zimmer-Spielman era, this story from Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune is a must-read. It's full of well-reported specifics based on conversations with more than 20 anonymous people close to the organization.

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Much of the story focuses on Zimmer and the "fear-based organization" Kendricks described last week. Players and coaches were frequently on edge because of Zimmer's gruff personality, intense demands, and tendency to not mince his words publicly. Goessling describes how Zimmer's meddling with the offensive side of the ball created tensions throughout his tenure, which featured different offensive coordinators in each of the past six seasons.

But what stood out most to me from the story was an anecdote near the end.

"After a key loss in the final weeks of the season, [Zimmer's] tone started to shift; sources said the coach gave a Wednesday presentation about all the bad things that happened to him in his eight years with the Vikings (Peterson's suspension in 2014, Bridgewater's knee injury in 2016 and so on), leaving players dumbfounded."

That's a pretty awful look for Zimmer. While it's true that he dealt with a ton of adversity during his tenure, it's not an excuse for poor results. Every team deals with things like that. And what could possibly be gained from sharing a presentation like that with players? They're not the ones who were about to make a decision on his job status.

Again, I definitely recommend checking out the entire article if you haven't yet.

Thielen says Wilfs have asked for player feedback

Adam Thielen, the Vikings' second longest-tenured player behind Harrison Smith, hosts 'The ETS Podcast' with ETS Performance founder Ryan Englebert. The two recorded an episode recapping the season, and Thielen had some interesting things to say about the team going in a different direction at head coach and GM.

The interesting takeaway from the podcast is Thielen talking about how the Wilfs met with the Vikings' player leadership council and asked for feedback as they entered the process of finding Zimmer and Spielman's replacements.

"The owners did sit down with the leadership council and asked us a bunch of questions," Thielen said. "What we're looking for, what we're missing, and just tried to get as much insight as possible, and I thought that was really cool. It was a super healthy conversation, just to kind of lay it all out there: what we think was missing and what we think could take us to the next level. ... They were super receptive and want to do it more often with the leaders. I think it was kind of an eye-opener for everybody to say 'this is really healthy and this could be really good moving forward to have that communication.' Does it mean they're going to do exactly what we say? No. But I think it's a great start with communication."

That's a significant thing. The Wilfs wanting to hear from the players as they prepare to bring in new leadership makes a lot of sense, but I don't think it's common practice around major professional sports for owners to do that. The emphasis from everyone in the Vikings organization over the last week has been about leadership, communication, and collaboration, and this is a good step in that direction.

Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.