The Minnesota Vikings’ season ended with a 31-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Even though it ended on a high note, the season was a disappointing one. The Vikings will again miss the playoffs for the third time in 4 years. Minnesota was hot and cold all season long, often showing that they have potential to beat any team but can also lose to any team as well. There’s a lot to learn from this frustrating season. Here are the 5 biggest takeaways from the Vikings’ 2021 season.
Nepotism Ruined The 2021 Season
Before the 2020 season, Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson were made co-defensive coordinators of the Minnesota Vikings’ defense. Patterson’s promotion made sense. He’s been with the team for years and was responsible for building an elite defensive line. Adam Zimmer’s promotion made little to no sense. Adam Zimmer had served as the linebackers head coach since 2014, but outside of being the head coach’s son he’d accomplished little. A few former Vikings have even publicly ridiculed the move.
In 2021, nepotism would rear it’s ugly head once again for the Vikings. After Gary Kubiak retired as the offensive coordinator of Minnesota, his son Klint Kubiak, was promoted to the coordinator position. This promotion was even more confounding than Adam Zimmer’s. Kubiak had little coaching experience and had never called plays before. Kubiak’s lack of experience often hindered the offense this season. Almost half way through the season, Kubiak opened up about still learning how to call plays. That doesn’t instill a lot of hope in a playoff hopeful team. Kubiak’s play calling would become one of Minnesota’s biggest liabilities this season.
The hiring of an inexperienced play caller who has never been an offensive coordinator makes little sense. The Vikings were facing lots of pressure after the 2020 season to be a legitimate threat. Minnesota responded by hiring a man with almost no qualifications, because his last name was Kubiak. Ultimately, the hire may have sealed Mike Zimmer’s fate as Vikings’ head coach.
Justin Jefferson Deserves Better
Justin Jefferson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He’s also one of the best wide receivers in Minnesota Vikings’ history. His stats show just how good he is. Despite that, Jefferson has spent his first 2 years on a conservative run first offense. Jefferson has never played in the playoffs in his young NFL career. That alone is inexcusable, considering Jefferson’s level of talent. What’s even more telling is what happened at the end of Sunday’s game against the Bears.
Justin Jefferson had a solid game on Sunday. He finished with 107 yards and 1 touchdown. He also finished with only 17 yards remaining to break Randy Moss’s franchise record of most receiving yards in a season. After Jefferson hit the 107 mark, the Minnesota Vikings’ offense had 2 more drives. Jefferson seemed like a sure lock to break Moss’s record. Jefferson got 1 target. After that, the Vikings would call running plays until the end of the game. Vikings’ fans weren’t happy at U.S. Bank Stadium. Many people were chanting Jefferson’s name while booing every time Minnesota ran the ball.
Ultimately, the record may matter very little to Jefferson. Jefferson is in his prime and will likely be a Viking for years to come. But this record is endemic of a wider problem for Minnesota. Justin Jefferson is stuck. The Vikings’ mediocre offense underutilizes him. In most of the Minnesota Vikings’ losses this year, Jefferson never hit 100 yards. Lets hope that with a new coaching staff, Justin Jefferson will finally get the targets he deserves.
Don’t Bother Extending Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins is a bit of a polarizing figure in Minnesota. Many people defend him due to his decent stats. To Cousins’ credit, his stats for 2021 are good. Cousins finished the season with 3,971 yards, 30 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. Most of Cousins’ seasons with the Vikings are similar. Despite those stats however, the Vikings have only made the Vikings once with Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been in Minnesota for 4 seasons and most seasons end in bitter disappointment. Cousins can’t get the job done.
Kirk Cousins has a losing record in prime time. He has a losing record against winning teams. Cousins has shown consistently that he struggles when it matters most. He only has 1 season where he hit 10 wins. Outside of that, he always hovers around 7, 8, and 9 wins. For whatever reason, Kirk Cousins has the raw talent to be an elite quarterback but he always struggles in the big moments. He has proven over the last 4 seasons he’s not the quarterback to take the Vikings to the playoffs consistently. Cousins has a massive cap hit this off season that leaves the Vikings with 2 choices: trade or extend Kirk. It’s very simple what Minnesota should do. Trade him away. His salary is unjustifiable for a quarterback that can’t lead a Super Bowl winning team.
Mike Zimmer Has Lost His Defensive Touch
After a disappointing 2020 season for the Vikings’ defense, the front office went all out in the 2021 off season. Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, and Bashaud Breeland were all signed. Everson Griffen returned to Minnesota. Danielle Hunter returned from injury. The Minnesota defense seemed locked and loaded to be a dominant force in 2021. The final results were disappointing. The run defense was horrid. Many times throw out the season, a running back could gain an easy 5 yards against the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line. Danielle Hunter would end the season on IR. Everson Griffen never returned after dealing with a personal issue. Patrick Peterson was a good cornerback for Minnesota, but Bashaud Breeland truly exposed Mike Zimmer.
For Mike Zimmer’s coaching career, he’s been touted as a cornerback guru and for good reason. Zimmer got his start as a cornerbacks coach, way back in 1995 for the Dallas Cowboys. During his team in Minnesota, Zimmer’s defense have often had decent and sometimes elite cornerback play. With Cam Dantzler showing promise in 2020, many people wondered what he’d turn into under Zimmer’s coaching. Yet, Dantzler sat behind for Breeland for much of the year. This decision was questionable, considering Breeland wasn’t playing well. Dantzler wouldn’t start until Breeland was waived after an incident at practice.
The 2021 Minnesota Vikings’ defense will ultimately go down as a disappointment for how much talent it wasted. It couldn’t be helped in 2020. Minnesota just didn’t have the talent to be a defensive threat. In 2021 however, the defense was stacked with talent. They still couldn’t be a threat. Granted, they dealt with some significant injuries but that is something every team deals with. One thing may be clearer than anything else; Mike Zimmer has lost his defensive touch. Reports indicate Zimmer has already lost his job, so maybe fresh coaching can improve the Minnesota defense.
Rick Spielman Still Can’t Build An Offensive Line
It happened again on Sunday. Oli Udoh was called for yet another offensive holding penalty. That marks 16 for the season.
Normally, a player like Oli Udoh starting would indicate a starter being injured. That’s not the case for the Vikings. Oli Udoh came into the season as a starter. His play has made starting him inexcusable. Over the past 4 years, Rick Spielman has demonstrated a massive mishandling of the Vikings’ offensive line. Last year, Dru Samia and Dakota Dozier started. This year it was Oli Udoh. This is constantly the case with the Vikings, as they focus on the draft to improve their offensive line and rarely ever sign big name offensive linemen.
The Vikings’ solution to their offensive line struggles in 2020 was drafting Chrisitian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis. Mason Cole was also signed on a discount. It was believed that Wyatt Davis would eventually be a starter. Yet, Wyatt Davis never saw the field. Christian Darrisaw’s early injury led to some liabilities for the offensive line. Mason Cole was a backup center for much of the season. Rick Spielman demonstrates every season he can’t build an offensive line. With the news that Spielman will likely stay in the Minnesota organization, it appears Minnesota Vikings’ fans will watch much of the same next season.
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