Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021


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Zimmer Won’t Be Fired Any Time Soon

 

Mike Zimmer has survived his critics so far. With the Vikings headed into a bye week and not playing again until October 31, the embattled head coach won’t be dismissed mid-year.

Fans, many of whom have been frustrated with Zimmer for years, are howling for his termination. Despite a two-game winning streak that has pulled the season record to 3-3, the criticism is intense mostly because Minnesota has missed the playoffs two of the last three years and continues to play conservative offense.

Only a deep run into the postseason, perhaps necessitating a trip to the Super Bowl, will pacify the large number of Zimmer critics. While the Vikings have the potential to be a playoff team, the inconsistency shown so far won’t even be enough to make the playoffs.

Ahead on the schedule are two games against the 5-1 Packers. Other 5-1 teams to contend with are the Cowboys, Ravens and Rams. Minnesota must also play the 4-2 Chargers.

A deeply disgruntled fan-base can hit the Vikings ownership hard, both financially and emotionally. Angry patrons stop buying tickets and boycott other revenue sources of the franchise. When boos fill U.S. Bank Stadium, it sends a message to ownership that customers are very unhappy.

It’s likely that inside the organization expectations were high for this season. Zimmer, now in his eighth season as Minnesota head coach, is expected to deliver a winning season and make the playoffs. It seems probable only that result will save his job.

Mike Zimmer

Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are fans, too, but they are disciplined in their actions. They have been loyal to employees, including those who have been with the organization even longer than Zimmer. The Wilfs approved the hiring of Zimmer in 2014, know him well and are probably emotionally invested in the 65-year-old head coach. Their position regarding Zimmer’s job status is likely to give him the full season to see what the Vikings can accomplish.

Those who want a coaching change during the season are unlikely to see it.

Worth Noting

After Saturday’s win over Nebraska, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck is 17-8 in his last 25 games. That’s the best stretch for a Gopher coach since Glen Mason was 17-8 in 2002 and 2003.

The Bowling Green football team is 2-5 this season and has lost three straight games since its stunning upset of the Gophers who were 30 point favorites. Fleck said Saturday the game was probably his worst coaching performance since taking over at Minnesota in 2017.

As bad as the Gophers played, they almost certainly win that game if All-American running back Mo Ibrahim and best wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell are available. Best guess is the season-ending loss of Ibrahim costs Minnesota at least two wins this season.

Fleck met with his boss, athletic director Mark Coyle, after the Bowling Green debacle. The coach said he appreciated Coyle’s advice, “Time to row.”

Nebraska native Scott Frost, the embattled Cornhuskers coach now in his fourth season in Lincoln, was supposed to be the program’s savior. Awhile back his arrival generated plenty of praise including this quote from college football announcer Tim Brando: “…I believe he will be the most successful Division I coach in college football since Nick Saban was hired in Tuscaloosa.”

The Big Ten West Division winner could go to the Rose Bowl, with the East Division champ advancing to the College Football Playoff. Minnesota, at 2-0 in division games, is among the teams in the early running for the West championship.

Two seats were assigned to Rose Bowl representatives at Huntington Bank Stadium for the Nebraska-Minnesota game. Other seat assignments were for scouts of the Vikings, Seahawks and 49ers.

Nashville calling? The Gophers have been to the Music City Bowl three times and are a decent bet to end up there December 30. Last trip to that bowl was 2005.

Condolences to family and friends of Gary Reierson, who recently passed away. He was a standout in baseball and football for the Gophers in the mid-1960s. Gary had a successful career in sales and was president of the Old Timers’ Hot Stove League.

Doesn’t seem likely the Twins will want to re-sign Nelson Cruz despite management’s appreciation of his hitting production and leadership before dealing him last summer to the Rays. As a free agent this offseason he might command a $10 million deal and the budget conscious Twins have sustained serious financial losses the last two seasons.

Money is better spent on starting pitching. On paper right now that unit looks like the stuff of an expansion team.

Maybe new Timberwolves owner Alex Rodriguez, whose voice is heard on Fox’s national baseball games, can use his influence to help the Twins land in a future Field of Dreams game. A Twins-Brewers game seems like a natural, with Minneapolis and Milwaukee less than 240 miles from Dyersville, Iowa.

Ticket interest in the Minnesota Wild doesn’t heat up until later in the football season but the St. Paul-based team gets a break with its home game next Sunday because the Vikings have a schedule bye. Look for the Wild to announce a sellout for tomorrow night’s home opener against the Jets.

If the Wild, 2-0 on the season, continue with a hot start there will be credit given to GM Bill Guerin for creating a better culture on the roster by dumping veterans Zach Parise and Ryan Suter during the offseason. Parise, 37 and now with the Islanders, has no goals or assists in two games. Suter, 36, has an assist in two games for the Stars and is expected to have a bigger impact on his team than Parise.

In the “State of Hockey” there are no Minnesota franchises in the United States Hockey League but new commissioner Bill Robertson and other leaders of the top junior league are considering expansion beyond the current 16 teams. Suter owns the Madison Capitols.

Tickets for the general public go on sale Thursday to watch the 2022 Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis. Prices start at $100 for the April 1 and 3 games at Target Center. ncaa.com/wbbtickets.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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