Mike Zimmer Ranked as 10th-Best Coach in NFL for 2020

Will Ragatz

According to one writer, Mike Zimmer is a top-ten coach in the NFL. Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports recently picked the ten best coaches in the league, and Zimmer rounded out the list at No. 10.

It still feels like Mike Zimmer is underappreciated. Here's what he's done as the Vikings' coach for the past six seasons:

He's won 59.9 percent of his games, good enough for a 57-38-1 record. He's been to the playoffs in half of his six seasons, even though he's been stuck in the same division as Aaron Rodgers. He'd be 3-2 instead of 2-3 in the playoffs if Blair Walsh hadn't gone all Blair Walsh on him. As a defensive-minded coach, he always gets the most out of the Vikings' defense. In his six seasons, the Vikings' defense has ranked in the top-10 in points allowed five times. The only time they didn't finish in the top-10 came in his first season in charge, when they ranked 11th. 

Zimmer isn't a perfect coach. He probably needs to win more playoff games to get more respect. But he's a defensive-minded coach who always gets results out of his defense.

When Zimmer was hired in 2014, he took over a Vikings team that had a horrendous defense and not much beyond Adrian Peterson on offense. He immediately transformed the culture of the team on the defensive side of the ball, turning the Vikings into a consistently excellent team on that end. Gary Kubiak will be Zimmer's fifth offensive coordinator in seven years, but his teams have generally been solid in terms of putting up points as well.

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You can make a case that this is too high for Zimmer given his lack of playoff success. While the Vikings have made the postseason in three of his six years, they've won just two games during that time, and followed up both emotional wins over the Saints with letdowns the following week. Drew Mahowald pointed out that Zimmer is the only member of this top-ten list to never appear in a Super Bowl.

From that perspective, maybe Ron Rivera or Dan Quinn – both of whom have appeared in a Super Bowl – should've been in the No. 10 spot instead. Except Rivera was fired last year and Quinn's seat is very hot. Zimmer's Vikings have never won fewer than seven games (back in his debut season in 2014).

As Wagner-McGough mentioned, Zimmer would have at least a third playoff win if Blair Walsh hadn't lost his mind in the 2015-16 wild card round. Another reason why Zimmer is a top-ten coach is what he's been able to accomplish despite a number of obstacles. Here are a few of the things that have happened since Zimmer took over that have been completely out of his control:

  • 2014: Adrian Peterson misses the season due to child abuse charges
  • 2016: Teddy Bridgewater suffers brutal non-contact knee injury right before season
  • 2016: Zimmer's retina detaches, forcing him to wear an eye patch (he's had at least eight eye surgeries since then)
  • 2018: Offensive line coach Tony Sparano dies mid-season

I think No. 10 is a fair ranking for Zimmer. He's one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and a great leader, but he shouldn't be mentioned among the top five coaches until he gets over the hump and reaches a Super Bowl (or at least makes the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time).

Zimmer's 0.599 win percentage ranks third in Vikings history. If he wins 11 games in 2020, he'll pass Dennis Green for second on that list.

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