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If Godfather Part III had any redeeming qualities, it’s the line (and I’m paraphrasing a bit), “Everytime I try to get out, they PULL me back in!”; if you’ve followed my articles, at all, this season you’ll most likely know where this is going (the headline probably tipped you off, as well), but after a night of interacting with Vikings fans (thanks to my snazzy new Adam Thielen jersey/general depressed disposition), and I feel implored to discuss what happened on Monday Night and how it pertains to the Vikings as a whole. Focusing, of course, on quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but instead of diving into that quagmire head first, it might be more helpful to look at Monday night as what it was… A microcosm for the entire Zimmer era.

The reason that I’ve focused so heavily on #8 is that he is always the topic of conversation when I run into Vikings fans in person. I literally spoke with just over ten Vikings fans this week and every single one blamed Cousins for Monday night’s fiasco. While there’s some truth to that statement, it goes so far beyond that and I feel like I’m doing our readers a disservice by not reflecting what I believe (down to my bones) is the real issue with this team.
If you’ve followed my articles you’ll sense the trend that I tend to get a bit wordy.

That’s mostly because I came up on the mean streets of debating football on message boards, and so I’m used to hearing the typical responses to certain points, and because of that I attempt to shut down those arguments before they creep up in the comments section. While that does give my articles a bit of a Clint Eastwood arguing with an empty chair vibe, it also can make general readers’ eyes gloss over. I’ve devoted myself to thorough inspection of this team and this sport, therefore it is innate for me to elucidate with the same tendency.

So, I want to make this quick yet impactful as possible.

Here goes:

We have seen Cousins perform at nigh-MVP levels this season against lesser opponents. We’ve also seen him struggle. At this point, we’re able to see the why and when to his struggles and the why and when to his successes. These are things that most people that follow football knew about Cousins before he even came here.

So that brings up the point of this article, or points…

1) Cousins IS NOT Perfect

2) This team can and HAS succeeded at a high level with him in specific and repeatable situations. So, we know what he does well and what he doesn’t do well.

3) The fact that the coaching staff continues to deviate from point #2 is an issue that goes beyond just bad game planning and preceeds Cousins’ time in Minnesota

4) So, what should we make of this?

As for the first point. Yes. Cousins played poorly Monday night. His discomfort evident and illustrated as such as he threw balls into the feet of his receivers, or overthrew them (a la the missed throw to CJ Ham early in the game that could’ve ended up as a touchdown, but instead the Vikings had to settle for a field goal).

Beyond that, the offensive line had arguably it’s worst game of the season (or at least since the Week 4 game against the Bears), and lastly that the coaching decisions by both Kevin Stefanski (and company) and Mike Zimmer were dubious at best.

Essentially, Monday was a microcosm of the entire Zimmer era and it is exhausting.

The crux of my defense of Cousins, and thus and concern with this team has been the same since I wrote this semi-facetious article after the Chiefs game as the President of the Purple Doom and Gloom Society. That there are three things that can essentially crater any chance this Vikings team has at winning a (big) game and they are; Cousins regressing, the secondary/Rhodes imploding and “Too Cute” coaching decisions.

After watching Monday night’s “game”, it’s safe to say that some of those issues are one in the same.

We all know what works for Cousins and what doesn’t. Yet for some reason when the Vikings have faced good opponents this season, they’ve diverted from what has worked for the offense as well as Cousins, and instead had done things that we know don’t work. Beyond the fact that it sucks that the Vikings are losing this game, it’s additionally infuriating because we still don’t know what we have in Cousins because we have yet to actually see him go against a great opponent/defense at his best.

Why?

After the game Monday night Zimmer said of the lack of rollouts/bootlegs that the Packers essentially limited their ability to do just that… Well, I’ll let Zimmer explain:

“I think [the Packers] were doing a nice job on the outside to try to keep us from running some of those.”

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, as it’s not as if they attempted to run a bootleg and in the process Cousins was just shut down by Za’Darius Smith. They just simply didn’t run those plays, or more specifically, they ran one of those plays just once (late in the game, and it lead to an interception).

That means that the Vikings coaches THOUGHT that they couldn’t run those plays, not that they attempted to run them, for the reasons Zimmer initially stated after the game.

The same issue, which I’ll call the inability complex, extended to the lack of play-action plays Monday. The Vikings coaches thought that they wouldn’t be able to run play action against this Packers team without Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison. While it would’ve been far more difficult, as the Packers wouldn’t have feared Mike Boone as much as they would Cook/Mattison, that doesn’t mean that you simply do not run those plays.

The Vikings still have a ton of talent at their skill positions, and I’d take Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs going against the Packers corners in a formation that Cousins feels most comfortable in over formations that Cousins has shown time and time again isn’t suitable or comfortable for him.
Zimmer even discussed that after he had the benefit of hindsight and had watched tape of the game himself:

“We probably could have done a better job in trying to help [Cousins] a bit with some of the calls… We got outside of the pocket one time and he had all kinds of time, and he ended up throwing the interception But we need to make sure that we do a better job of trying to [have Cousins] not in one spot all the time as well.”

Read that again.

“We probably could have done a better job in trying to help [Cousins] a bit with some of the calls… We got outside of the pocket one time and he had all kinds of time, and he ended up throwing the interception But we need to make sure that we do a better job of trying to [have Cousins] not in one spot all the time as well.”

In Week 16 in the most important season of Zimmer’s tenure the answer to completely abandoning the type of offensive game plan that has worked for this Vikings team, is, something that they should’ve known weeks and weeks ago.

Beyond that… He clearly didn’t even know WHY they didn’t run those plays immediately after the game. He guessed, guessed wrong, and then watched the tape and realized they didn’t even do it. That’s a pretty damning set of facts.

While you may think that he was simply saying that the Packers had a spy and thus they didn’t run those plays… That still… Read what he said again…

“I think [the Packers] were doing a nice job on the outside to try to keep us from running some of those.”

“We probably could have done a better job in trying to help [Cousins] a bit with some of the calls… But we need to make sure that we do a better job of trying to [have Cousins] not in one spot all the time as well.”

REALLY?

I’ve long thought of Zimmer as more of a glorified defensive coordinator than a head coach. Sure, he has the title, office and paycheck- but the fact that he couldn’t MAKE John DeFilippo run the ball over the course of ANY amount of time (let alone the three-quarters of a season ‘Flip lasted) should tell you all you need to know about Zimmer’s offensive philosophy (or lack thereof).

That’s fine. But what isn’t fine is for him to be so out of the loop as to what happened in the most important game of the season that he is just guessing why his team/offense had the game plan that it did.

If they didn’t learn from the Chiefs game, or the first half of the Broncos game, or the Seahawks game, or the first-half of the Packers game… Or the second half of the Packers game. Will they ever?

I have limited faith, clearly… I mean, at least they switched up the tempo at half-time against the Broncos. This Vikings team was getting booed WITH THE LEAD before the half because they were treating the two minute drill like the Pro Bowl.

However, that’s not to say that Cousins is perfect; every quarterback and team has strengths and weaknesses. We’ve seen from Cousins that he can play as well as any quarterback in the league when they Vikings use him the right way, and what’s so infuriating is that we don’t really know how he’d play against elite defenses or in big spots this season because whenever the opportunity has come, the Vikings brain-trust has moved away from play action and getting him out of the pocket and towards things that he’s shown that he’s just not capable of doing in perfect situations, let alone against a pass rush that was disrupting every facet of the Vikings game plan.

Cousins knows that he doesn’t even have mediocre pocket presence. He knows that he can’t sense blind-side pressure and that’s why rolling out to his left works so well. While it may seem strange that a right-handed quarterback would do so well rolling out to his left while throwing right, it helps Cousins because he is able to keep that blind-side pressure to his right, essentially turning off that conscious or subconscious alarm bell that tells him he could get hit at any time.

I mean, if I know that, why did it take a massive loss against the Packers and a couple days of tape reviews for Zimmer to get it?

Now we’re at the point where the Vikings will rest their starters against the Bears as a mini-Bye going into the Wild Card round of the playoffs. While we don’t know who the Vikings will face as the third-seed next weekend, we do know that the Vikings coaches will most likely abandon the type of play calling that had Cousins playing at the same level as the 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes during a long stretch this season.

How do we know that?

Because they’ve done it time and time again. The NFC Championship in 2017 is a good example and because apparently it just dawned on Zimmer this week that maybe getting Cousins out of the pocket is a good idea. It wasn’t the fact that Smith moved into the Vikings backfield and disrupted every facet of whatever game plan the Vikings did have. That means what we’ve all known about this coaching staff, they’re not great at making in game adjustments.

Zimmer said as much after the Packers game when asked about Cousins’ day.

“It’s hard for me to tell when I’m standing on the sideline. I’ll look at the tape and let you know”

While it’s a bit of a trope that someone calls for Zimmer’s gig before the end of the season (as we have that happen in every live chat that we host),that doesn’t mean that that idea is wrong all the time. We’ve seen the peak of what Zimmer can do with this team, and that peak was years ago.

There has never, in my lifetime, been an ownership/management that has been more supportive of a head coach than the Wilf’s have been of Zimmer.
He’s had carte blanche to build the defense of his dreams. If there was an NFL equivalent of creating a defense on Madden with the skill points all set to off, this would be it. There have been X first round picks, X second round picks, etc. and for the most part, those picks have worked.

However, it’s been clear for a while that the Zimmer defense, by itself, was not going to get the Vikings to the promised land. That was the entire impetus for bringing in Cousins in the first place.

The thought was, that if there was an offense that was HALF as lethal as the defense was in 2017 (and before) that the Vikings would be unbeatable. But that statement needs to be dissected a bit, because it was the average Zimmer defense people were pointing to, the one that was historically good on third down. Not the defenses in big games, not the defense of the second-half of the Saints game or the subsequent NFC Championship in 2017. Not the defense of the must win games at the end of last season, not the defense to start last season, either.

Why is that?

Because Zimmer has routinely out-coached himself in those games, and beyond that he’s apparently not that invested in what the offensive coordinators and assistants are up to. I mean, even if you say that he was just being Zimmer and wasn’t actually speaking literally, the actions of this coaching staff have time and time again proven that they have zero idea what they have in or how to maximize the performance of their quarterback.

It’s not simply that those teams’ head coaches outfoxed him, which they did, but it’s more that the game was essentially lost before the coin flip because Zimmer can’t leave good enough alone. He is acutely aware of his defense’s weaknesses and because of that, especially when afforded extra time, he has attempted to perfect the imperfectable and in the process he’s hamstrung his own elite roster from doing what they get paid to do, play the damn game.

When you combine that with whatever the hell is going on with the game planning on the other side of the ball, it’s clear that this team is going to be remembered as perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the history of a franchise filled to the brim with them.

So, after the Vikings lose next weekend, we really have to think long and hard about the direction of this franchise. Sure, the “core” of the team is mostly locked up until 2023, but they’re not getting any younger and if they don’t resign Cousins they’ll have to find another quarterback soon to take over after next season.

So, why not make a change this off-season? They have someone in house that has a history of success, a history of turning franchises around with the same rosters year-to-year, and someone who has actually won a Super Bowl when his team was supposed to. That person is Gary Kubiak, and while he may be part of the nonsensical decision making bashed above, I really don’t see a lot of Kubiak in those decisions as he is known for running a lot of old school heavy personnel stuff and it’s when the team deviates from that that they start to have issues. Kubiak’s staff is already here with him and they’ve helped maximize the output of both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison.

I can already hear the “This dude is calling for Zimmer to get fired before the playoffs!”. While I may feel that that’s the best move, I simply wanted to get the idea out there because I do believe that this team can it all as currently constructed, it just needs a different set of eyes running the show because clearly this team is massively underperforming at best and considering how talented this roster is, it’s pretty inexcusable for them to miss the playoffs in 2018 and then to go one-and-done as the sixth seed in 2019.

Those weren’t the stakes and we all knew that, so it shouldn’t be that odd of a concept that someone be held accountable. While some say that person should be Cousins, we’ve seen him succeed at a very high level and it’s my argument that he’s being held back by the coaching staff, not the other way around.

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    • #54431
      puck1384Joe Johnson
      Keymaster
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      Rank: Newbie

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU If Godfather Part III had any redeeming qualities, it’s the line (and I’m paraphrasing a bit), “Everytime
      [See the full post at: The Vikings are Squandering their Super Bowl Window and the worst part? They don’t even know Why.]

    • #54434
      RobSkolVikesRobSkolVikes
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      Here’s what I think: I think we have a great team, loaded with talent, a great Head Coach in Zimmer, who has taken this team from a very bad place to annually competitive, despite far above average adversity. Several teams would be very happy to see us let him walk this offseason. Zim’s ability to develop talent, lead, and bring stability to this organization cannot be overlooked. He has brought an identity to Minnesota, Defense first. Sure we have struggled at times offensively, as well as defensively, lost big games etc… You can set your watch to the naysayers every time we drop a big game like the MNF game vs GB. Its still JUST ONE GAME. We didn’t have our top 2 RB’s, and our game plan wasn’t as good as GB’s. They had better effort/execution, and we lost. It happens. That doesn’t mean we clean house. Nor does it mean our season is over. We’re not far away from breaking through to another level, and winning it all, in my opinion. We just haven’t put it all together in all 3 phases yet. But we’re close. Unless you have a HALL OF FAME QB/HC like New England, you’re just one of 32 teams scratching your way to the top. Even with a HOF QB, it takes LUCK, and for EVERYTHING to come together at just the right time to win it all/go deep in Playoffs. There is nothing wrong with our team. We just lost. We got beat because GB was better than us in the 3rd/4th QTRs, they had better execution, better effort, better game plan etc.. I believe if we had Cook/Mattison it would’ve been a more even match, but maybe it was better we lost. In reality, the best we could’ve hoped for was the 5 seed, as GB is/was not going to lose to Detroit. And if we had won last Monday, it would FORCE us to have to play all our starters, risk further injury, and go for the win against Chicago week 17. Its a blessing in disguise we lost. It humbled us, gave us a lesson on what NOT to do, and possibly gave us some keys on how to play GB next when we go to Lambeau in a week or 2 (yes I intend to win the Wild Card-Unlike so many skeptics and advance). I honestly can’t wait to play them.

    • #54436
      puck1384Joe Johnson
      Keymaster
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      Hey Rob!

      I’ll respond more thoroughly in a minute but something glaring jumped out and I wanted to comment on that first and separately.

      I wouldn’t say this after just one game.

      I said this game was a microcosm of the entire Zimmer era. That it, like the Seahawks, Chiefs, Eagles NFC ‘ship and others showed that our coaches (Zimmer, Stefanski) either are out coached by the opposition or by themselves.

      There’s zero excuse for them to deviate from what has worked this many times. We’ve had Cook and Mattison in other games and they’ve deviated from the PA bootleg/rollout heavy formation stuff.

      For Zimmer to say stuff like “it’s not the end of the world!” Or what he said after the Packers game shows that he and they don’t get it and unfortunately there’s not much time left for this team to win as is and I’m tired of waiting for him/them to learn from their mistakes because I don’t think they can.

      I fully expect them to do exactly the same thing in the playoffs and I’d rather lose doing what this team does great than lose doing what we know they’re not great at. Because at least then we’d know what kind of team we had and where to improve.

    • #54469
      BumpjasBumpjas
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      Kubiak can’t coach becuase if his health. Why he took the job to be in less stressful position

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