MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After the Vikings failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season and the fifth time in eight years, the team has reportedly fired head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman.
The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero first reported the moves Monday morning. WCCO’s Mike Max has confirmed the firings.READ MORE: Vikings Get Big Pass-Rush Boost With Hunter's Healthy Return
Zimmer released the following statement late Monday afternoon:
I want to thank you for your support over these eight years. I’ve grown to love the people of Minnesota, it has become our home. You have been tremendous to my foundation and helping the kids of Minnesota. We have had great sponsors and met so many great people, including my relationship with Bud Grant and all the people in the offices.
I have given my heart and soul to this organization and to the players. I have had outstanding assistant coaches who have worked tirelessly. I’m sorry we didn’t get it done.
The fans make this place truly special. On Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium, it’s an unbelievable atmosphere.
I’ll miss coaching the players, some who have been with me for all eight years. I want to thank the players who welcomed me in 2014 and believed in me that I could lead them to be great.
Spielman released the following statement Monday:
“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 the Vikings players, coaches and staff, I sincerely appreciate your tireless efforts to win and your dedication to this community and the fan base. 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 & 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.”
16 seasons of giving it your all for the #Vikings.
Thank you, Rick. pic.twitter.com/I6y0o4OQIc
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 10, 2022
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf also released a statement:
“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.
“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.
“Our comprehensive search for a new general manager and head coach will begin immediately and will be led internally. We are determined to have sustained success and bring Vikings fans the Super Bowl championships they expect and deserve.”
In an afternoon press conference, co-owner Mark Wilf called it a “difficult day” and shied away from calling the move a “full rebuild,” saying that there is a strong foundation for success.
“I do feel we can be a contender in 2022 and that’s how I view it,” he said.
The organization is not using a search firm for the hiring process. Mark Wilf said he believes that the organization has a high collective football IQ and the resources to find a suitable candidate for head coach and general manager.
“We are a place where coaches and GMs want to be,” Mark Wilf said.
Right now, only Zimmer and Spielman have been removed. Other coaching staff under contract remain at this point.READ MORE: Vikings Add Analytics Expert Demitrius Washington In VP Role
The Vikings finished the season 8-9, with a 4-2 record in the NFC North.
Zimmer joined the Vikings in 2014, and led them to a 72-56-1 record across eight seasons. His win percentage is the third-best in Vikings history behind Bud Grant and Denny Green. The team did not get above .500 at any point in either of Zimmer’s last two seasons as coach.
Spielman had been with the team since 2006, and held the general manager title since 2012. He was the man who hired Zimmer in 2014.
The year before Zimmer arrived, the Vikings defense finished last in points allowed and second-to-last in yards allowed. Zimmer, one of the most respected defensive minds in football, immediately turned the unit around, and they finished 11th and 14th in those categories his first year. In the 2017-18 season, they finished first in both categories. The past two years, however, the defense has fallen off a cliff, finishing 29th and 27th in yards and points allowed last year and 24th and 30th this season.
The Vikings won the NFC North twice under Zimmer, and never finished last in the division.
In the 2017-2018 season, Zimmer’s best year, the Vikings went 13-3 and made it to the NFC Championship game, where they lost 38-7 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Zimmer’s overall playoff record was 2-3, with both wins coming against the New Orleans Saints.
During his tenure, the Vikings had seven different quarterbacks start games. They also had six different offensive coordinators in his eight seasons.
Before coming to the Vikings, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati for six seasons. He spent seven seasons as the DC in Dallas before that, with a year in Atlanta in between.
Spielman’s first draft as GM netted the Vikings future Hall of Fame safety Harrison Smith, currently the longest-tenured Viking. Under his watch, the Vikings’ first rounders were hit and miss. In addition to Smith, he drafted Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Justin Jefferson. He also missed on players like Matt Kalil, Laquon Treadwell and Mike Hughes.
Beyond the first round, Spielman and the Vikings’ scouting department found several productive players. Stefon Diggs was a fifth-round pick before emerging as one of the NFL’s best receivers. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, a third-rounder, was a premier pass rusher before being sidelined by injuries the past two years.
Spielman also made one of the greatest undrafted free agent signings in team history when he brought on wide receiver Adam Thielen out of Minnesota State Mankato.
The move Spielman will most likely be remembered for, though, is signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed contract following the Vikings’ nearly miraculous 2017-18 season.
On the strength of that playoff run, feeling they were just a quarterback away from a championship, Spielman and the Vikings gave Cousins a three-year, $84 million contract. Two years later, they would give him a two-year, $66 million extension.MORE NEWS: Vikings 2022 Schedule Released, With Season-Opening Game Against Packers
Since signing Cousins, the Vikings have gone 33-31-1 in four seasons, missing the playoffs three times.