An authoritative telling of the Mike Zimmer era — and why it ended — arrived in mid-January from the Star Tribune's Ben Goessling.
One of the defining quotes included in the piece, which also included plenty of background information, was from veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks: "I don't think a fear-based organization is the way to go."
Kendricks had identified a culture shift he was hoping to see whenever a new coach was hired, and indeed the choices of Kevin O'Connell as coach and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as General Manager ushered in the idea of "communicators" and "collaborators" addressed by owner Mark Wilf after Zimmer and Rick Spielman were fired.
Now, nearly eight months later and with O'Connell just days away from making his head coaching debut against the Vikings' biggest rival, the difference in styles between Zimmer and O'Connell is still a subject of discussion.
Longtime NFL writer Tyler Dunne took a deep dive recently into the Zimmer era on his independent Go Long site, with damning quotes from anonymous sources but also on-the-record thoughts from Zimmer allies like Terence Newman (who said some players "dreaded going to work").
The comparisons between Zimmer and O'Connell might continue throughout this entire season.
As discussed on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast with Patrick Reusse and at multiple other points this offseason, the Vikings largely kept their core of top players intact even after changing coaches and key decisionmakers.
That will create inevitable comparisons between what O'Connell is able to extract — via both Xs and Os and soft skills — from a lot of the same players that were on the field as seasons ended short of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
If the Vikings suddenly surge and become a double-digit victory team, O'Connell surely will get credit while more dirt is shoveled on Zimmer. If the Vikings are worse than they were the last four seasons (and particularly the last two), Zimmer will be redeemed in retrospect (at least to a degree) while we are left to wonder about the current regime.
These sorts of comparisons are come after a change to long-standing norms. They might be entirely fair or nuanced, but they are inevitable.
I'm looking forward to the first "Zimmer would have run the ball there" tweet on Sunday, but I'm also looking forward to putting it all in the past someday.