A year ago, the Vikings seemed ready to contend for a Super Bowl appearance. Now? Not.
The team’s head coach understandably disagrees with external perceptions.
“Contrary to what everybody else believes, I still believe we’re the 11-5 team that went into the ’16 season,” Zimmer told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in an extended (and excellent) interview. “We’ve added more things offensively than we had. I think we’re going to be a lot better offensively.”
As Murphy interjected at that point, the Vikings almost have to be better on offense; they can’t be much worse.
“In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve been 27th in the league offensively,” Zimmer said. “If we can improve to 15th and score when we have the opportunities. . . . One of the things I always preach is don’t beat yourself. Last year, we had so many pre-snap penalties that actually killed us. Trying to get that part fixed, I think we’ll be better. I think the running game will improve with [left tackle Riley] Reiff and [right tackle Mike] Remmers and [center Pat] Eflein and our backs, now. This [rookie running back Dalvin] Cook looks like he’s going to be pretty special.”
The term “pretty special” hasn’t been applied much to the Vikings since their last Super Bowl appearance in 1976. The 1987 team shocked superior franchises from New Orleans and San Francisco in the postseason, and the 1998 team was one of the best of all time to not make it to the title game. Then there was the 2009 team, that outplayed — but didn’t outscore — the Saints in the NFC championship game.
The best news for Zimmer is that the bar is low. But it’s low for a reason, and it’s up to Zimmer to ensure that the performance surpasses the justifiably low expectations for the team.