Mike Zimmer’s downfall with the Vikings began in the 2018 offseason, when Minnesota had a decision to make at quarterback. They opted to go with Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is a fine player, but one who has had a negative impact on Minnesota both on the field and for financial reasons.
“I want to be really careful about taking away from our strength and saying, ‘OK, we’re not going to be able to do this and we’re not going to be able to do that anymore because of financial reasons or something else,’” Zimmer said in 2018.
The Vikings’ decision essentially came down to Cousins or Case Keenum. Minnesota didn’t want to reset with a rookie signal-caller and sure as hell couldn’t trust Teddy Bridgewater to stay healthy. Cousins is a better player than Keenum, and undoubtedly was at that point — but his contract is far less desirable.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins’ contract doomed Minnesota and Mike Zimmer
Cousins’ deal, which is fully-guaranteed at $84 million over three years, severely limited the Vikings margin for error with the rest of their roster. Building out a high-caliber defense, which was supposed to be Zimmer’s strength as a head coach, while also building an offense around Cousins proved too tough of a task for Rick Spielman.
While Zimmer likely wouldn’t admit so publicly, keeping Keenum on a team-friendly deal and building around Dalvin Cook and a capable receiving corps rather than spending so much money on Cousins was the wiser play. Not to mention, Zimmer got in his own way.
Zimmer and Cousins never really got along much during their time together. Neither had a distrust of the other, but the lack of interaction early on in Cousins’ tenure impacted their relationship in key moments.
By the end of Zimmer’s time as head coach, he barely even interacted with the Vikings’ offense, essentially serving as a defensive coordinator with more power. Zimmer’s disconnect with both Cousins and the offense came back to haunt him, and it all goes back to the 2018 offseason, and the Vikings decision to sign a quarterback Zimmer quite frankly didn’t want.