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The win over the Bears means nothing. Mike Zimmer has only declined in his effectiveness. Kirk Cousins reads defenses poorly and goes through progressions too slowly. Most of his big plays are the result of defensive errors or great receptions on poorly thrown passes. Clean this team of all this average ability.
— Rick Weitzel
The Vikings 2021 season is over, and it ended Sunday with a win over the Bears that brought the Vikings record to 8-9 in the inaugural 17-game schedule.
But don't tell that to Rick, who sent in this email after Sunday's win. It was one of many that struck the same tone.
As far as I can tell from the inbox, fans are frustrated with how the 2021 season played out. And they have every right to be, as back-to-back seasons of no playoffs (and three missed postseason chances in four seasons) is not good enough.
A quote from after the final preseason game recently popped into my head:
"On all sides of the ball, I feel like we are going to be pretty good," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "But you still have to go out there and prove it."
View game action photos between the Vikings and Bears during the Week 18 season finale matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota had talent, sure, but they were not good on all sides of the ball.
The offense languished too much and was one of the league's worst groups on third downs. The defense couldn't stop anything in the final two minutes of either half, especially the first half where the Vikings allowed an incredible 93 points in those timespans.
Minnesota's best phase might have been special teams, as first-year coordinator Ryan Ficken helped turned that unit around after a disastrous 2020 season.
Overall, the Vikings had their moments, sure, but what they mostly proved in 2021 was that they were inconsistent.
Even Sunday's game was a microcosm of that. The offense gained 22 yards on the first 18 plays, but suddenly sprung to life in the second half.
The end result was a frustrating season for all involved.
As for the changes Rick hopes for, those remain to be seen.
Zimmer understandably wasn't in the mood to discuss anything regarding his job status after the game nor do any reflection on the past eight seasons.
"Let's not go there today," Zimmer said postgame. "You want to talk about it tomorrow, then let's talk about it tomorrow. But this isn't time to reflect for eight years."
Zimmer also kept his locker room speech on focus, too, keeping the same mantra and not getting emotional above it.
Here is what he said during the 27-second speech:
"That's a hell of a second half, fellas. Made some big plays on offense, made some big plays on defense. Interception for a touchdown, seven sacks on their guy, it was a hell of a job, all right? So tomorrow we have a team meeting at 9 o'clock, OK? Everybody good? OK, here … Vikes on 3. 1, 2, 3…"
When you listen to Coach Zimmer talk about Anthony Barr being a special person, or Dalvin Cook talking about grinding and loving his coach and teammates, why would anyone want to change this coaching staff? These kids strike me as being very self-supporting, and having bought into the Zimmer coaching in addition to the Wilf ownership.
While the ownership, general manager and coaching staff will have introspection into their organization this offseason, it appears to me that it would be foolish to change coaching staff or general management.
Between COVID, coaching losses, and general management loses, all of these things have hurt this team in the past few years. Continuity is a good thing in the game which requires players to buy into the system. Go Vikings!
— Bruce from Orono, Minnesota
I don't think anyone is denying the respect Zimmer has for his players, and the way that they, in turn, feel about him, too.
This quote from Barr after Sunday's game both addressed speculation about Zimmer but also showed the respect he has for the man who has been his only NFL head coach.
"We've always been on the same page where we don't say a lot," said Barr, who was Zimmer's first draft pick back in 2014. "But I think our relationship has grown and evolved over the past few years. I love Coach Zim'.
"I know he's catching a lot of heat, but players play the game, too," Barr added. "I think you can point the finger at us as much as you can point it at him."
Even those who haven't been around Zimmer as long, such as Justin Jefferson, had praise for Zimmer on Sunday afternoon.
"Our relationship is good. Just talking to him at practice, just simple conversation. I never had a problem with Coach," Jefferson said. "I like Coach as a coach and as a person. I've never had a problem with him."
The issue of why some people, such as Rick above or other fans via email, who are wondering about Zimmer's job status is because the past few seasons have mostly been a disappointment.
Besides not being above .500 in the past two seasons, the Vikings have also been burned by slow starts to the season (1-5 in 2020 and 1-3 in 2021), plus a defensive regression from what the standard was earlier in Zimmer's tenure here.
That's not to say Zimmer will be let go. Again, we'll have to wait to see what decisions the Wilf family ownership group of the Vikings decides.
But the past few seasons haven't been up to par, and even Zimmer would probably agree with that.
As a longtime Vikings fan, I am disappointed that the offense didn't make more of an effort in the fourth quarter to get Justin Jefferson the ball. I know that records are records, and games are games, and the team comes before individual accolades. But I felt this was the perfect opportunity, with the two-touchdown lead, for a lasting memory for Jefferson and for the fans that paid and attended a meaningless game. On another note, I was very excited last spring and summer for the Vikings! Maybe this year it will continue all the way to next February. Skol Vikes!!
— Steve in Goldsboro, North Carolina
I get the sentiment from Steve, and you can count me among those who would have liked to see Jefferson get the Vikings single-season receiving record in the season finale.
And judging from the boos in the final minute at U.S. Bank Stadium when the Vikings ran the ball to end the game, the fans in attendance did, too.
Jefferson ended up with 1,616 receiving yards, just 17 shy of breaking Randy Moss' mark of 1,632 yards set back in 2003.
And Jefferson, for what it's worth, took a classy approach after the game.
"Just being that close and not getting it, definitely tough, but it is what it is," Jefferson said.
While disappointing for him, there was actually another Jefferson quote that stood out to me after the game.
"This is only my second year. There's so many things that I have to learn, have to experience, so this is only the start for me," Jefferson said. "I'm only just reaching the top."
That is what should excite Vikings fans the most going forward. Out of all of the people inside Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center – players, coaches, staff, etc. — Jefferson is likely the biggest building block for this team going forward.
And not passing Moss feels like one of the only records Jefferson hasn't been able to break in his first two seasons in the league.
A look at his numbers:
3,016 receiving yards (the most by a player in their first two seasons) on 196 catches (ties the most through two seasons) and 17 touchdowns
This tweet explains it all:
No matter what happens with the Vikings front office or roster going forward, Jefferson will be a part of the Vikings in 2022 and beyond,
And if you ask me, he's already the face of the franchise.
Just out of curiosity, but with the rumors going around about a Cousins trade, do you think the Vikings should go after Gardner Minshew on the Eagles?
— Nick in New Jersey
I appreciate the inquiry from Nick, who is ready to go all in on the Vikings list of possible offseason scenarios.
But today is literally Day 1 of the Vikings 2022 offseason. The next actual Vikings football game will be in August, so we have an eight-month wait until the Vikings are back in game action.
As usual, so much will happen between now and then. Cousins, as always, will generate headlines and offseason buzz and be a priority topic among Vikings fans.
As we've pointed out in the Mailbag before, he is entering the final season of his current contract and is slated to count for $45 million against the 2022 salary cap, which is projected to be at roughly $208 million.
Cousins, for what it's worth, gave this answer when asked about his 2022 contract status after Sunday's game:
"It's hard to have these conversations when I haven't given it any thought and don't know any of those numbers. But I know that I want to be a Viking, and that's kind of the foundation of it all. From there, it's pretty easy to make those conversations happen when you want to be a Minnesota Viking."
The 2022 New League Year and free agency period is slated to begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 16. That's still 1,500-plus hours away.