The Vikings are giving nepotism a bad name.

Sunday night, during their 20-16 loss to Dallas, the Vikings looked like they were holding an internship tryout for inexperienced coaches.

This is Mike Zimmer's fault. He set this mess in motion.

If Sunday's game was the game that will ultimately cost Zimmer his job, the fingerprints at the crime scene will look awfully familiar.

Zimmer followed a disgusting NFL tradition by hiring people he knew instead of people who might have been better than people he already knew.

This goes to the NFL's failures in diversity hiring, but it goes even farther than that. NFL teams often hire those who make them comfortable, not those who are most promising.

When Zimmer needed a defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator he hired his son and his buddy's son. Now he's reaping the repercussions.

He should have conducted an exhaustive search. He didn't even break a sweat. He looked at his phone, checked on the last 10 people he had texted, and hired three of them — his son, Adam Zimmer; Gary Kubiak's son, Klint; and his good friend and longtime Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson.

Patterson had earned the chance to be a coordinator. Zimmer and Kubiak were hired because of their names, not their accomplishments.

Let's not let Rick Spielman off the hook. The general manager oversees Zimmer and the hiring of coaches, and he could have forced Zimmer to hire the kinds of coaches Zimmer used to hire — accomplished veterans such as Norv Turner, Pat Shurmur and Gary Kubiak.

Why wouldn't that be the approach in 2021, going into a season that Zimmer thought could produce a championship, a season that held the potential for getting the entire football operation fired?

The Vikings' offense has thrived in two situations in the first six weeks this season: on opening, scripted drives, and in last-minute, desperation situations.

Kubiak can spend all week scripting the first drive, and he can solicit advice from other coaches and his father. After the first drive, he has to think on his feet.

In last-minute, desperation situations, Kubiak and Kirk Cousins' combined cautiousness has to be jettisoned in favor of Cousins doing what he should be doing all game — pushing the ball downfield to his star receivers.

Today, vocal fans are calling for Zimmer to be fired. It is an indictment of his coaching staff that there is no in-house replacement who would bring a measure of hope.

Patterson is the only assistant remotely qualified to be an interim head coach, and if he were given that job, it would not be to rally the Vikings to the playoffs. It would be because he commands enough respect that he could ease this group of players through the rest of the season before the Wilfs began their coaching search in earnest.

Sunday was a reminder that high-level firings in sports are more about feelings than facts.

If he were able to strip away emotions, Zimmer could argue that the Vikings still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, that losing to what looks like an excellent Cowboys team shouldn't be a cause for panic.

Zimmer's problem is that we watch the games. We saw a veteran NFL head coach botch clock management at the end of the first half and call a timeout he didn't have late in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings look like a team that knows it has blown its last chance to do something special together. A team that knows it doesn't have the coaching chops to contend.

The saddest aspect of the state of the Vikings is that the job status of the head coach is probably irrelevant.

If the Vikings fire him, they'll limp through the rest of the season.

If they keep him, they'll limp through the rest of the season.

The only thing Zimmer accomplished when he hired the lesser Zimmer and the lesser Kubiak was ensuring that his long-term successor wouldn't be in position to take over for him during the middle of a season.

Take your victories where you can get them, I guess.