A new era is about to be ushered in for the Minnesota Vikings. Less than one day after seeing the team finish the 2021 season with a disappointing 8-9 record -- despite ending it on a high note against the lowly Chicago Bears -- ownership in Minneapolis has decided it's time to do some early spring cleaning. To that end, they've fired head coach Mike Zimmer, per CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, but that's not all. They've also opted to move on from general manager Rick Spielman as well, making room for a completely new regime.
In a statement issued on Monday, via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Spielman thanked the team for the opportunity.
"I am honored to have been a part of the Minnesota Vikings organization and this incredible community for the past 16 years. The people of this state welcomed me and my family and treated us with the utmost respect throughout our tenure. Michelle and I created many special memories with our children here, and we will always consider Minnesota our home.
"Vikings fans, you are some of the most passionate in all of sports. The tremendous game day atmosphere and home field advantage at U.S. Bank Stadium is because of each of you. There is nothing like the emotions we shared together at kickoff each Sunday.
"To all the Vikings players, coaches and staff, I sincerely appreciate your tireless efforts to win and your dedication to this community and the fanbase. There are so many talented people throughout this organization, and because of that, the Vikings will continue to be a special place in the future. Finally, I want to thank Zygi and Mark Wilf and the entire Wilf family for believing in me and consistently providing the resources for us to be successful as a football operations staff. It is not common in the NFL to be in a position for this long, which goes to show how this ownership group believes in stability and supports their leaders.
"While today is emotional, I wish the Minnesota Vikings and Vikings fans nothing but future success."
Having also seen the aforementioned Bears divorce Matt Nagy on the same Monday morning, the NFC North now sees Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur as the longest tenured HC in the division. And as the Packers ready for their first-round bye after having clinched (owned) the division yet again in 2021, how the Vikings approach their coaching and GM search will be paramount to any plans of dethroning Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the future -- assuming they remain married beyond this season.
Zimmer leaves the Vikings with a coaching record of 72-56-1, but having gone just 15-18 in the last two seasons.
"This morning we met with Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer to notify them we will be moving in a different direction at the general manager and head coach positions in 2022," the ownership group said in an official statement. "We appreciate Rick and Mike's commitment to the team's on-field success, their passion for making a positive impact in our community and their dedication to players, coaches and staff. While these decisions are not easy, we believe it is time for new leadership to elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships. We wish both Rick and Mike and their families only the best."
He joined the organization as head coach in 2014 and has had some success but, more often than not, there have been valleys that far outweighed any sporadic peaks. One of the more revered defensive minds in football, it became quite the blow to Zimmer's aura to see this year's iteration of the Vikings defense allow 25.1 points per game (24th in NFL) while tied to an offense that could only muster 25.0 points per game and, as you can see there, the math is the math.
So often for the Vikings as of late, it was a combination of questionable offense and a defense that couldn't finish games, and Spielman bears part of the blame for it all when looking at personnel/roster decisions. Spielman's time with the Vikings preceded that of Zimmer's, having joined the club in 2012 and being integral in installing Zimmer two years later, and the fate of the two have been long tied together.
They're now both out in Minnesota, and all eyes turn to whomever will be brought in this offseason.
"Our comprehensive search for a new general manager and head coach will begin immediately and will be led internally," said the team on Monday. "We are determined to have sustained success and bring Vikings fans the Super Bowl championships they expect and deserve."