StaTuesday: Grading Mike Zimmer’s sixth season with Vikings

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on during warm ups before a NFC Wild Card playoff football game against the New Orleans Saints.
Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

Before the postseason began, there were rumors swirling around about head coach Mike Zimmer’s future in Minnesota.

Dallas, where Zimmer coached defensive backs from 1994-2000 and was the defensive coordinator until 2006, had a vacancy on the sidelines after *finally* cutting ties with Jason Garrett.

If the Vikings lost to New Orleans, would Zimmer be out of a job and be bound for Dallas?

Not so fast.

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“We value Mike and Rick (Spielman)’s leadership, and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond,” owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said in a statement Friday, responding to the reports.

Zimmer is here to stay.

Now that we know his future, it’s time to look at Zimmer’s sixth season in Minnesota, with a little help from our friends at headcoachranking.com.

The analysts at Head Coach Ranking grade out NFL head coaches on a 0-10 scale in five key categories: play calling, personnel utilization, game planning, in-game adjustments and clock management.

All 32 head coaches are then assigned an overall score based on their performance and are ranked among their peers. The website released its final ratings after the regular season concluded.

John Harbaugh, the head coach of the 14-2 Baltimore Ravens, led the league with an 8.1 overall rating, besting second-place Sean Payton of New Orleans (8.0).

In last place was Perry Fewell, who was named Carolina’s interim head coach on Dec. 3 after Ron Rivera was fired. Fewell tallied a 5.8 rating.

The worst rating given to a coach who lasted an entire season was Cleveland’s Freddie Kitchens and Adam Gase of the New York Jets, both at 6.1. Kitchens, of course, was let go by the Browns shortly after the regular season ended.

According to their formula, Zimmer tied for the eighth-best head coach this season with an overall rating of 7.2. He scored highest in game plan (7.4) and in-game adjustments (7.4). Zimmer was given a 7.3 for personnel, 7.1 for clock management and his worst category was play calling (6.9).

CATEGORY SCORE RANK
Play Calling 6.9 t-10
Personnel 7.3 t-10
Game Plan 7.5 t-5
In-Game Adjustments 7.4 t-6
Clock Management 7.1 t-9
Overall 7.2 t-8

Zimmer ranked highest among his peers in game planning, tying for fifth place with Bill O’Brien, Bruce Arians, Mike Vrabel and Pete Carroll.

The numbers are up from last season, which saw Minnesota go 8-7-1 and miss the postseason. Zimmer scored a 6.9 overall rating in 2018, ranking 18th in the NFL. He posted low scores of 6.6 in both play calling and clock management.

In 2017, when the Vikings posted a 13-3 record and went on a run to the NFC Championship game, Zimmer was slotted at fourth with a 7.7 overall rating.

Over his six-year tenure with the Vikings, Zimmer has compiled a record of 57-38-1. He’s won two playoff games (both against New Orleans) and two division titles (2015, 2017).

Zimmer has tallied the third-most career wins in franchise history, bested only by Bud Grant (158) and Dennis Green (97). He also owns the third-best winning percentage.

COACH RECORD %
Bud Grant 158-96-5 .621
Dennis Green 97-62 .610
Mike Zimmer 57-38-1 .599
Jerry Burns 52-43 .547
Brad Childress 39-35 .527
Mike Tice 32-33 .492
Leslie Frazier 21-32-1 .398
Norm Van Brocklin 29-51-4 .363
Les Steckel 3-13 .188

The 63-year-old is coming off one of his better years as a head coach, too. Zimmer challenged 10 plays in 2019, and seven were overturned. His previous career highs were seven plays challenged and five overturned in 2017.

As the Vikings prepare for their matchup in the divisional round with San Francisco on Saturday, Zimmer knows his job is safe, but he could boost his legacy in Minnesota with another deep playoff run.

It wouldn’t hurt the ratings, either.