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Zimmer's Era and the Evolving League

So after one of the worst losses in Vikings history that we witnessed on Christmas Day against Saints... Mike Zimmer owned up to what we have all been seeing as this being the worst Defense he has ever coached.

But before the over-reaction, lets put this into perspective... that Defense is missing Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, and Eric Kendricks.. so while this defense was historically bad on Friday... we have to remember that this is not the same defense that we will take the field 2021.

When you watch the Vikings at Noon, and then you watch another game like KC, Baltimore, Arizona... it's hard not to wonder if the league has passed Mike Zimmer by. But I think it is also important to look back when the Mike Zimmer Era started in 2014 and analyze HOW the league changed and more importantly.... WHEN it changed.

So let's dive in! And to create a little more perspective let's start back at 2010:

2010 SUPER BOWL XLV: Green Bay Packers 31 - 25 Steelers

GB #2 Defense (15 Pts/Gm)

PIT #1 Defense (14.5 Pts/Gm)

Overview: I'd say these teams were very balanced. But if you look at the success GB had that year. It was built on a defense led by the Woodson Turnover and the disruption of Clay Matthews III.

2011 SUPER BOWL XLVI: New York Giants 21 - 17 New England Patriots

NYG #9 Offense (24.6 Pts/Gm)

NE #3 Offense (32.1 Pts/Gm)

Overview: Now, this year was different. Sure there were some bright spots on the NYG D-Line, and Bill could still scheme a defense with less talent. But it was the Offense that brought both of these to Super Bowl.

2012 SUPER BOWL XLVII: Baltimore Ravens 34 - 31 SF 49ers

BAL #13 Defense (21.5 Pts/Gm)

SF #2 Defense (17.1 Pts/Gm)

Overview: You could point to Ray Lewis' late retirement announcement or the power outage, but this Ravens Defense played better than a #13 Defense when it came to the postseason. And the 2012 49ers Defense needs no backup with Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith holding the LB core.

2013 SUPER BOWL XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks 43 - 8 Denver Broncos

SEA #1 Defense (14.4 Pts/Gm)

DEN #22 Defense (24.9 Pts/Gm)

Overview: Peyton Manning was on another level that year. But after a first drive safety... Defense won the championship.

2014 SUPER BOWL XLIX: New England Patriots 28 - 24 Seattle Seahawks

NE #8 Defense (19.6 Pts/Gm)

SEA #1 Defense (15.9 Pts/Gm)

Overview: This was a time in the league, where it honestly felt like that Seahawks Defense could not be beaten. And it basically couldn't. To this day, my favorite Super Bowl moment is the Malcolm Butler interception on the goal line and Pete Carroll dropping his headset after trying to be too creative.

2015 SUPER BOWL L: Denver Broncos 24 - 10 Carolina Panthers

DEN #4 Defense (18.6 Pts/Gm)

CAR #6 Defense (19.3 Pts/Gm)

Overview: While Peyton was on this team, we all know that he did not get them there. After being embarrassed by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, they took the hint and started building that Defense. And it was that Defense that forced Cam to pass and shut down his MVP season.

2016 SUPER BOWL LI: New England 34 - 28 Atlanta Falcons

NE #1 Defense (15.6 Pts/Gm)

ATL #27 Defense (25.4 Pts/Gm) - what is also important with this stat is that ATL was a #1 Offense with 33.8 Pts/Gm

Overview: Now, some people may say that this is another example of Defense winning championships. But I believe that this had more to do with the Falcons trying to run out the clock in the 3rd Quarter and Brady keeping his foot on the gas. Because once that game got within reach, that ATL defense could not hold them off.

So to me, the Falcons High Powered Offense showed a way to work around great defenses... go for big chunk plays.

2017 SUPER BOWL LII: Philadelphia Eagles 41 - 33 New England Patriots

PHI #4 Defense (18.4 Pts/Gm)

NE #5 Defense (18.2 Pts/Gm)

**Vikings were the #1 Defense with 15.8 Pts/Gm

Overview: This one is painful but we have to talk about it... John DeFilippo had told Zimmer after getting the hire that the only way they knew they could beat the Vikings is on big plays with Foles. They knew they could not sustain drives by simply moving the chains against our Defense so they had to take yards in chunks.

Now obviously, when you watch the Super Bowl, Defense played no role in that game, but it was definitely Defense that got New England and Philly there.

2018 SUPER BOWL LIII: New England Patriots 13 - 3 LA Rams

NE #4 Offense (27.3 Pts/Gm) and #7 Defense (20.3 Pts/Gm)

LAR #2 Offense (32.9 Pts/Gm) and #20 Defense (24 Pts/Gm)

Overview: This game honestly felt like Professor X and Magneto playing chess. This Super Bowl was a gridlock of two teams that prided themselves on Offense but New England had Bill and Bill had the #7 Defense.

But what was more important in this game was what happened in the AFC Championship. Brady barely made it out alive with going up against Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs, and he knew it! The league was changing, and I think it was then, Brady knew that there was a new trend coming.

2019 SUPER BOWL LIV: KC Chiefs 31 - 20 SF 49ers

KC #7 Defense (19.3 Pts/Gm) and #5 Offense (28.2 Pts/Gm)* Mahomes Hurt

SF #8 Defense (19.4 Pts/Gm) and #2 Offense (29.9 Pts/Gm)

Overview: Now, even with New England having a #1 Defense (letting up 14.1 Pts/Gm - 6 points better than last year)... KC would not be denied this year. KC had a #5 Offense which would have been better if Mahomes didn't get hurt... but Mahomes being sidelined also led the Chiefs Defense to step up in a big way! And that is what made the difference that year.

Where the Change Happened:

To me, this started after 2017... Zimmer knew that we needed a change and the league was moving farther away from the thing that made him famous, Defense. And with us not knowing if Teddy would ever be the same, they went out and got the best option in Free Agency which was Kirk Cousins... and then they paired him with one of the coaches responsible for knocking them out of the NFC Championship - John DeFilippo.

This was Zimmer and Spielman not being Stagnant.

Zimmer reached the Defensive Mountain Top with only allowing 15.8 Pts/Gm in 2017 and that was not enough to put them over the top.

Hindsight is 2020, and while this may have been a knee jerk reaction. Zimmer was open to change. In the 2018 Draft that upcoming April, they made a point to start drafting O-Line higher in the draft and not just filling those needs in FA:

2018 Draft: Brian O'Neill (2nd Round)

2019 Draft: Garrett Bradbury (1st Round)

2020 Draft: Ezra Cleveland (2nd Round)

Are the Vikings the 1st ones through the wall in this new style offensive trend? No. But I will go as far to say that they are not behind on the curve. It's a rebuild.

Going forward, if Zimmer is the head coach. We will have see more emphasis on drafting Offense in the early rounds of the NFL draft. But this is where it could get fun!

With the new emphasis on Offense, the players who are left to walk in Free Agency are defensive players... can you imagine giving Zimmer the pick of established players who are farther along in the learning curve?

And if you pair that with the Vikings getting a more mobile quarterback to follow the trend of where the league is going, I think that fits in with what Zimmer likes to do and what we already have built on the Offensive side of the ball.

- Joey Almars

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