The Vikings’ fall, from a 13-3 season in 2017 to an 8-7-1 record and missing the playoffs in 2018, is bound to produce offseason questions. And given the contract statuses of their top decision-makers, the Vikings will have to answer those questions in the near future.
As we’ve reported in recent weeks, multiple sources have said both general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have contracts that expire after the 2019 season. Co-owner Mark Wilf said in an interview on Dec. 20 the Vikings have “all the confidence” in both men, and Zimmer texted NFL Network on Monday morning to say he’s not “retiring or resigning” after the Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Bears on Sunday. Zimmer’s proclamation aside, the Vikings will have to make a decision about whether they want to give contract extensions to Zimmer and Spielman, and for how long.
The Vikings have plenty of time this offseason to figure that out, of course, but it’s rare to see coaches and GMs work into the final years of their deals without some resolution of their status. Absent new deals for Zimmer or Spielman, proclamations about the Vikings keeping their leadership structure intact are ultimately just words.
The team will also have to make a decision on interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, whose contract expires 10 days after the conclusion of the regular season. Stefanski was thought to be the front-runner for the Vikings’ permanent offensive coordinator job a year ago, before the team hired John DeFilippo, but as quarterback Kirk Cousins said on Sunday after the game, Stefanski is “going to have options, too. So hopefully he wants to work with me. It goes both ways. But he’s been a joy to work with.”
After going 7-9 in their first season under Zimmer, the Vikings haven’t had a losing record since. The collapse of their offensive line helped turn a 5-0 start into a 3-8 finish in 2016, and though Kirk Cousins played every snap for the Vikings in 2018, the Vikings still lost four of their last seven after the bye week, falling out of the NFC North title race and ultimately out of the playoff picture.
In that time, their offenses have ranked 27th, 29th, 28th, 11th and 20th in yards and 20th, 16th, 23rd, 10th and 19th in points. They were ranked ninth in the league in yards per game and 14th in points at the halfway point, following a 37-17 win over the Jets on the road. But as the search for the Vikings’ offensive identity began around midseason — sources have said Zimmer’s mandate to run the ball more frequently started around them — the team was 25th in yards and 23rd in points in the second half.
Cousins isn’t going anywhere, so the Vikings will have to chart a sustainable path forward on offense in 2019. And before too long, they’ll have to put any long-term commitments to their decision-makers on paper.