Vikings rookies are scheduled to report to training camp later this week. Scheduled, as in, we’ll see if that actually happens. The NFL still has a few things to iron out first.
As of Monday afternoon, NFL owners were meeting to discuss testing protocols, revenue distribution and how many preseason games will be played, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Apparently, COVID-19 snuck up on them.
It’s safe to assume the league and players union will reach compromise on various issues because both sides don’t want to lose a season … if the coronavirus allows it. That’s to be determined.
As we wait for the Vikings to re-open business, one issue still seems rather surprising: The team hasn’t announced a contract extension for coach Mike Zimmer, who is entering the final season on his deal.
Maybe that will happen this week. The Vikings traditionally have waited to announce big news like contract signings until the week that players report to camp. Perhaps the organization pushed Zimmer’s contract negotiations to the back burner to tackle other pressing matters related to the pandemic but will hammer something out quickly now.
Or maybe the organization is going to ride this out without action. That would be weird. Especially with everything so unsettled.
If nothing is happening behind the scenes and the Vikings are intent to let Zimmer coach a lame-duck season, that makes zero sense. Why add one more distraction to a season that will operate unlike any in league history? Why force a coach with a proven résumé to enter a make-or-break season in the middle of a pandemic that wiped out the entire offseason and could bring in-season disruption?
What is the harm in adding two years to Zimmer’s contract? From a purely business perspective, that equates to a severance package if ownership ultimately chooses a new direction, not an unbreakable marriage.
Same thing with General Manager Rick Spielman, who by all accounts also is entering the final season on his contract. Adding a few years to his deal makes sense too.
Frankly, it’s surprising that this remains an unresolved story this close to training camp, which is scheduled to open July 28. Zygi and Mark Wilf issued a statement before the playoffs expressing their support for Zimmer and Spielman. Since then, crickets.
The playoff beatdown in San Francisco that concluded last season is the kind that shakes confidence in an organization’s standing as a contender, but time and distance provide a clearer mind to assess things.
The situation isn’t dire. Zimmer wins 60% of his games. He’s brought stability and professionalism to the operation. There isn’t a lot of nonsense inside an organization that historically has bathed in dysfunction. He won a road playoff game this past season.
Zimmer’s old-school tenets — defense, power running and winning time of possession — don’t mesh with the league’s infatuation with finding the next young hotshot offensive guru, but his style still works in the modern NFL.
Fixing the Vikings’ subpar offensive line is a larger concern. That’s a personnel issue, not an indictment on Zimmer’s coaching acumen.
It’s unusual for a coach to be in this position, entering a lame-duck season, if for no other reason than an organization wanting to avoid constant scrutiny of the coach’s contract status. As one can imagine, Zimmer just loves it when this topic comes up in news conferences.
Beyond the optics aspect, is this really the season to issue a make-or-break ultimatum to the head coach and GM? The complications caused by COVID-19 make it virtually impossible to expect normal conditions to paint a clear picture in making those franchise-altering decisions. This season could become chaotic if positive tests infiltrate the locker room.
The Vikings overhauled their roster this offseason. Rookies and unproven players will be counted on to fill important roles, despite having only a virtual offseason program. The NFL is a no-excuse game, but these are not typical conditions.
Extending Zimmer’s contract makes sense on many levels. Stability seems particularly important right now.