Head coach: Mike Zimmer. It’s an odd-numbered year, which means Zimmer is going to kill it this season. Check out this pattern: The Vikings have reached double-digit wins three times under Zimmer: in 2015, 2017 and 2019. So Minnesota is a lock to win 10-plus in 2021. I know this is the kind of logic typically reserved for walking into a Las Vegas casino, looking at the payouts on the roulette wheel and concluding a certain color is “due.” Still.
I’d actually have Zimmer in the top 11 of NFL coaches, regardless of the year, because the Vikings have been competitive each season Zimmer has been coach. Yes, even in the even-numbered years — even in parts of 2020. After all, the down Zimmer years would qualify as great seasons for some other teams (looking at you, Lions). The Vikings have never finished with less than seven wins during his tenure. (Maybe that consistency isn’t always so great; if the Vikings had kept going on the 1-5 pace they started with last year, they would have been in the mix for a quarterback like Justin Fields. Wait, am I saying the Vikings need a new quarterback? Not exactly. But we’ll talk more about that in a moment.)
I do want to point out the coordinator situation is a family affair. Klint Kubiak takes over for his dad, Gary Kubiak, as the team’s offensive play-caller. (Kubiak has previously worked with Gary and was the team’s quarterback coach the last two years.) And Mike’s son, Adam Zimmer, is heading into his second season as co-defensive coordinator. This is kind of like the Vikings’ version of the legacy stable from the WWE years ago (which I was a huge fan of, but then again, I’m a Cody Rhodes mark).
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins. In my recent ranking of how the NFC North quarterbacks would look if Aaron Rodgers were to leave the Packers, I had Cousins second, behind Bears rookie Justin Fields. Vikings fans were upset — but I’m still trying to figure out if it was because Cousins was ranked too high or too low. It’s weird that the mild-mannered Cousins is such a polarizing figure. Who would hate Kirk Cousins? It’s like taking an extreme position on Tom Hanks, who we all just sort of genuinely agree seems like a pretty great person. Even though some might not like his movies or performances (I, for instance, can’t stand the “Woody” character from Toy Story), most people probably still have a favorable impression of Hanks.
I see Cousins the same way. He’s never going to be in the conversation about the best quarterback in the NFL. But he’s consistent, having thrown for at least 4,000 yards in five of his last six seasons. He’s topped 30 touchdown passes in two of his last three. He’s solid — like Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can.
All that said, I’m curious about whether the Vikings will start to consider other options. Cousins is 32, under contract for two more seasons and, like I wrote, seems to have a definite ceiling. There was a report by Pro Football Talk that the team was in on Fields, which, if true, would make the Ohio State product landing with the rival Bears even more interesting. I’m sure if Fields becomes a stud QB, Bears fans won’t bring this up at all.
The Vikings did draft Kellen Mond — a dual-threat quarterback compared by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein to Colin Kaepernick — in the third round. That’s a pick I really like. Mond has a lot of games under his belt, but he’ll benefit from sitting behind Cousins early in his NFL career. Even so, don’t be surprised if there are some opportunities for Mond this season.