What the Vikings need to do to become Super Bowl Contenders
In winning their first Super Bowl since 1969, the Kansas City Chiefs proved how to end a barren spell in style.
Their second-ever title, 50 years since their last, also serves as a reminder to teams of similar standing that they too can do the same. Not least the Vikings who have yet to win the famous Vince Lomardi trophy, despite several near misses.
The Purple and Gold are mid-runners at +2000 (20/1) among US betting sites to break their duck in 2021. But what is needed this offseason for the Vikes to become genuine contenders next time around?
1, Back Zimmer
Despite owning the third-highest win percentage in franchise history and achieving three ten-win campaigns and three playoff appearances in his six seasons, coach Mike Zimmer has yet to be offered an extension to his contract.
While there may be no silverware to show for over half a decade’s work, the Vikings have steadily improved under Zimmer who has cemented his status as one of the best coaches in franchise history and overseen a period of relative success at the U.S. Stadium.
Even Zimmer himself has made it clear he doesn’t intend on coaching anywhere else, though, he probably could have landed the top job at Dallas Cowboys if he wanted it. A new contract, though, would’ve put those rumors to bed before they even surfaced. So where is it?
After being given license to reshuffle his coaching staff for 2020 – all the signs point towards Zimmer staying put, for the short term at least. But a new deal and stability off the field will allow Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman to fully focus on plotting success on it. Especially with now offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak calling the shots on offense, and all signs pointing to Stefon Diggs staying in Minnesota, the Vikings may (with the right offensive line picks in April’s draft) have the offense they’ve hoped for since signing Kirk Cousins in 2018.
Speaking of which…
2, Help Cousins flourish
Kirk Cousins is coming off one of his most effective seasons to date. The fourth best QB rating (107.4), number five in completion percentage (69.1) and a touchdown interception ratio of 26-to-6, the 31-year-old has come to the fore on the big occasions and regularly proved himself.
But there’s a feeling Minnesota could have got more change out of their quarterback.
While the likes of Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen represent an elite cast in support of Cousins, if he’s to really flourish in 2020, Zimmer, Kubiak and offensive line coach Rick Dennison need to find a way to provide him a clean pocket.
Cousins’ ability shines when given the time to pick a pass, as we saw when he was able to get out of the (Non-existent) pocket and throw without the fear of a blindside jack move. But when under pressure, that same Kirk Cousins becomes one of the least effective quarterbacks in the league. The difference between good Kirk and bad Kirk is, objectively interesting and really rare, but subjectively frustrating and sometimes down-right depression.
The good news is that we know the if’s and when’s of that situation and thus we know how to fix it. The key comes down to the line, which was 27th in the league last year against the pass rush (according to PFF).
Without question, Minnesota are a far better team with Cousins at the helm. However, it’s time they provide him with the platform to flourish on a consistent basis and especially against a strong pass rush.
3, Address salary cap situation… quickly!
The NFL offseason is primetime for trading and signing new players. But while some teams have plenty of room under the salary cap to maneuver, there are others in grave need of addressing their finances.
As you guessed, the Vikes are among the latter, $11.4 million in the red. Decisions need to be made to pull themselves from a rather large hole. But what will that entail?
Well, releasing cornerback Xavier Rhodes will save $8.1 million. There was once a time Rhodes could do no wrong for the Purple and Gold. Those days are long gone now though and the hierarchy needs to be ruthless where possible.
That could also see defensive tackle Linval Joseph shown the exit door. The general consensus centers on Joseph being past his sell-by-date and cheaper alternatives able to stop the run better than he has the past few years. A saving of $10.55 million means there’s an inevitability about Joseph’s future.