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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: DeFilippo’s firing is sure sign of growing pressure on Zimmer

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings will attempt to downplay it but if you want an idea of how much pressure Mike Zimmer and Co., are under the answer came on Tuesday morning.

Hours after Minnesota’s latest frustrating loss, an ugly 21-7 setback in Seattle, the team announced that offensive coordinator John DeFilippo had been fired and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski had been promoted to run the Vikings’ offense on an interim basis.

The Vikings fell to 6-6-1 with the defeat — although they somehow remain in the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC — but when you enter a season with an $84 million quarterback and what is considered one of the NFL’s best defenses simply making the postseason isn’t good enough.

Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are aware of this and thus for the second time in three seasons a Vikings’ offensive coordinator has been shown the door during the season. Last time it happened was during the 2016 season when Norv Turner was thrown overboard (or jumped) during a year in which the Vikings melted down after a 5-0 start.

That was a frustrating year but this is worse.

The Vikings have three games left in a season in which quarterback Kirk Cousins was brought aboard and given a fully guaranteed three-year contract (a rarity in the NFL) because the expectation was that he would provide an upgrade on Case Keenum. The Vikings were coming off a 13-3 finish and an appearance in the NFC title game, where they lost to Philadelphia.

The North Stars followed up their run to the 1981 Stanley Cup Finals with the slogan “So close we can taste it.” The Vikings could have stolen the same line for 2018. The issue is the North Stars were eliminated in the first round of the 1982 playoffs, and the Vikings appear as if they have little interest in getting to the postseason.

This isn’t going to be acceptable to owner Zygi Wilf, who has seen the Vikings make two NFC title games since buying the team in 2005. In both cases, the following season has proven to be a disappointment. After losing to the Saints in 2009, the Vikings were such a mess in 2010 that coach Brad Childress was fired during the season. Zimmer is in no immediate jeopardy of losing his job but the decision to fire DeFilippo shows that his seat is getting warmer by the day.

The process of how DeFilippo was hired to replace Pat Shurmur after last season also needs to be examined. Shurmur, who replaced Turner in 2016 and had an outstanding season calling plays in 2017, was hired by the New York Giants as head coach after last year. Shurmur, a veteran coach, was so good in his job that apparently Zimmer didn’t have to concern himself too much with that side of the ball. His departure should have sent the Vikings looking for someone with similar attributes.

Instead, DeFilippo got the job after being the Eagles quarterbacks coach and getting credit for helping Nick Foles lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl after Carson Wentz was injured. But DeFilippo had only been an offensive coordinator in the NFL once before — that came in 2015 with the 3-13 Cleveland Browns — and it should have been clear that he might not have been the best fit for the impatient Zimmer.

In his fifth season as Vikings coach, Zimmer has proven to be outstanding at leading a defense. When things are going well offensively and with special teams, Zimmer appears to be a perfect fit for his current position. But when things start to break down offensively, or with special teams, it’s another story and watching it play out is concerning.

Zimmer, who is incredibly easy to read and has no ability to hide his feelings, tipped his hand about DeFilippo when he expressed his frustrations about the Vikings’ offense following a 25-20 loss in Chicago on Nov. 18 in a Sunday night game. One game after appearing to get things on the right track in a victory over Green Bay, Zimmer again was disgruntled with DeFilippo’s play-calling a week ago Sunday following a 24-10 loss in New England.

By Monday night, it was as if DeFilippo was second-guessing every play call he made (perhaps for good reason) and Cousins was trying to avoid mistakes more than he was trying to make plays. Zimmer’s glare of disgust appears to have the ability to make even competent coaches and players look lost.

While Zimmer’s candidness about DeFilippo was great from a media standpoint, the point made here was that it was almost as if Zimmer did not realize that he ultimately has control of the offense. His business card doesn’t read “Mike Zimmer — Minnesota Vikings head coach, defense.” He runs the entire show. He gets the credit when things go right and he takes the blame when things go wrong.

That means it’s his responsibility if things aren’t going as planned to give up some of his involvement with his beloved defense in order to get things right with the offense. It’s not clear how things will change with Stefanski moving into the offensive coordinator’s role, or if Zimmer will become more involved.

What the firing of DeFilippo shows is that Zimmer knows he’s under pressure to get this thing right in 2018 and that waiting until 2019 was not an option. The move also means that Zimmer now has played the card of using DeFilippo as a fall guy. The pressure will mount on him and that pressure will come from both the fan base and those who run the Vikings.

The goodwill that was built during the magical 2017 season is long gone and if things don’t soon take a turn for the better it’s likely the next change that will be called for won’t be a coordinator.

The post Zulgad: DeFilippo’s firing is sure sign of growing pressure on Zimmer appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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