By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings have had a losing record in three of the last four seasons. The team’s culture has quickly turned in the wrong direction.READ MORE: MN Rep. Ilhan Omar Visits Afghan Evacuees At Fort McCoy Calling It 'Uplifting' And 'Emotional'
A losing mentality does not suit their first-year head coach Mike Zimmer. He was highly critical of his players following their consecutive poor performance against division rivals Sunday. The Vikings lost 17-3 to the Detroit Lions at TCF Bank Stadium, but were not competitive in the game. That came 10 days after their embarrassing 42-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Nigh Football at Lambeau Field.
“I want them to understand that it’s not OK to lose,” Zimmer said Monday at his press conference. “We have to change the mentality, the mindset of this. I can remember telling defenses in Cincinnati, a long, long time ago, that we have to develop this mindset that it’s not OK to lose. It’s not business as usual. I’m not very accepting of these kinds of things.”
Zimmer took over a Cincinnati Bengals defense that had finished in the top 15 in the league in points allowed just once in the previous 18 seasons in 2008. In his six seasons as their defensive coordinator, they finished outside the top 10 just twice.
Veterans like wide receiver Greg Jennings that have been on consistently winning teams know that it is not just the coaches that need to hold themselves accountable. Jennings has been on five playoff teams, including the Super Bowl champion Packers in 2010.
“We have to do a better job of doing that police work with one another, and making sure everything is important,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s weights, special teams meetings, training, treatment, everything is important.”
There were a lot of grumblings about a comment Zimmer made after the game on Sunday about players showing up late. But, Jennings sheds a different light on what the head coach was talking about.
“Guys are late across the board, a lot of other places,” Jennings said. “But again, when you’re losing, everyone is scrutinized. Everyone is kind of under the microscope. You just try to weed out everything that’s not right, to correct it, so you can have things going how he sees it and how he envisions it.”
The Vikings play three straight games, beginning Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, with a .500 record or worse before heading into their bye week.
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The Vikings have had the same starting five offensive linemen for three years. An injury forced one change earlier in the season, but poor performance may cause more.
Tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt have been the most talked about culprits. Guards Charlie Johnson and Vladimir Ducasse have had their issues as well. Ducasse has really struggled with quite a few penalties since taking over at right guard when Brandon Fusco was lost for the season.
“We are evaluating all that and I’m not opposed to it,” Zimmer said.
The head coach did not single an individual out, but placed the blame for Sunday’s performance on several factors, including his rookie quarterback’s indecisiveness.
“One time we held the ball too long,” Zimmer said. “One time we got protection the wrong way. There were some times we got beat. One time a guy tripped on another guy and fell backwards and the guy sacked him. It was a number of different things. One time we stuck on a game. Some of it was guys not getting open.”
The Vikings offensive line was given a lot credit for helping running back Adrian Peterson win the league’s MVP award and nearly reach the single-season rushing record.
“I feel like we have the ability and talent to play better than what we have,” Zimmer said. “The guys overall are not bad football players. They’re just not playing real good right now.”
The reserves on the offensive line include offensive tackle Mike Harris, interior lineman Joe Berger and guards David Yankey and Austin Wentworth.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.MORE NEWS: Minnesota Families Soak Up Warm Weather With Fall Festivities
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.