2021 might be a make-or-break year for Mike Zimmer.
Despite being 64-47-1 in the regular season as the Vikings' head coach –– the eighth-best record in the NFL over that time period –– Zimmer has made the playoffs just three times in seven seasons, has just two playoff wins, and is coming off of a highly disappointing 7-9 campaign. If he misses the postseason in two consecutive years for the first time, he may well be searching for a new job.
New odds from Sports Betting Dime show that Vegas believes Zimmer has one of the hottest seats in the league. Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, SBD gives Zimmer 8-to-1 odds to be the first coach fired in 2021. Those are the third-best odds of any coach, trailing only the Broncos' Vic Fangio (5-to-1) and the Bears' Matt Nagy (6-to-1).
Zimmer quickly changed the culture of the Vikings when he was hired in 2014. They went from one of the league's worst defensive teams at the start of the decade to having a perennially dominant defense. The Vikings won the NFC North in Zimmer's second season in 2015 and should've won a playoff game that year if not for Blair Walsh missing a chip shot field goal. After a 5-0 start fell apart in 2016, the Vikings put it all together in 2017. They went 13-3, winning the division and earning a first-round bye. Then they followed up the Minneapolis Miracle with a blowout loss in the NFC title game.
After that season, the Vikings decided they needed an upgrade at quarterback, so they signed Kirk Cousins to a huge contract. They've only made the playoffs once in the three seasons since then. The Vikings' offense was excellent in 2020, but Zimmer's defense fell apart due to offseason departures and injuries that left Minnesota relying on a ton of young or backup-caliber players.
The pieces are in place for a return to the playoffs in 2021, although plenty of questions need to be answered. The defense should get Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, and Anthony Barr back, unless the Vikings decide to move on from Barr's contract. The offense should remain explosive, but as always, the offensive line needs to improve.
Personally, I'd be shocked if Zimmer was the first coach fired this year, because that would mean he got the axe during the season. Unless the Vikings get off to a truly awful start, I'd assume Zimmer will at least get the full season. Like we saw this past year, this team is too talented to go 3-13. Their range of outcomes is somewhere between 6-10 and 12-4. If they miss the playoffs, he's probably gone after the year.
Zimmer signed a contract extension last summer that kicks in this season. But that probably won't matter if the results don't come this season. That applies for GM Rick Spielman, too.
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