Before Sunday's game against the Bears, Mike Zimmer sat on the bench on the Vikings' sideline, looking uncharacteristically pensive.
After the game, Zimmer walked, with a grim look on his face, toward the locker room, pausing to stage a photo with his defensive coordinators — son Adam Zimmer and longtime friend Andre Patterson.
"It's just something we planned on doing," Zimmer said. "Andre and I haven't had a picture together so we just talked about it before the game."
Minutes after his Vikings defeated the Bears 31-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium, Zimmer was asked about his future as coach. "No, I haven't heard anything about my job status," he said. "I haven't heard anything about yours, either. Not my choice. Not my decision."
Asked what he was most proud of after eight years as the Vikings coach, he said, "Let's not go there today. You want to talk about it tomorrow, let's talk about it tomorrow. This isn't the time to recollect, for eight years.''
Sunday was awkward for Zimmer and his staff. He is expected to be fired, perhaps on Monday, one day after his latest victory improved his record to 8-9 this season and 72-56-1 since joining the Vikings.
Monday might be awkward for Zimmer's bosses, too.
The Wilfs own the Vikings. Rick Spielman makes their personnel decisions. Kirk Cousins makes the most important decisions on the field.
Will the Wilfs pretend that Zimmer should be the only member of the football team's brain trust who should be jettisoned after four years of manic water-treading?
There are plenty of reasons for firing Zimmer. He built a mediocre coaching staff. He lost too many close games the past two years. He looked uncharacteristically befuddled on the sideline during too many of them. His defense failed miserably for a second consecutive year. He hasn't coached a true Super Bowl contender for five years — and that team lost by 31 points to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
There are not as many good reasons for firing Zimmer, keeping Spielman and absolving Cousins.
Spielman failed to draft and develop a quality quarterback, and overpaid Cousins, which left little money to fix the Vikings' other flaws.
Spielman has failed to build a quality offensive line, and has spent too much money on favored veterans who have not played to the level of their salary.
Cousins was supposed to put the Vikings over the top but has won one playoff game in four years, and went through slumps at the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2021 that kept his team out of the playoffs.
To date, the Wilfs have placed almost blind trust in Spielman, creating the possibility that they will keep him on even though he is just as responsible for the Vikings' recent mediocrity as Zimmer.
Spielman and Zimmer have been tied together for eight years, and Spielman stuck Zimmer with a quarterback he didn't want.
Coaches can become stale as left-out toast.
So can general managers and quarterbacks.
If the Vikings are going to make changes, they should make wholesale changes, not pretend they're one tweak away from glory.
Zimmer, by the way, was right about Cousins, and perhaps the most interesting answer from the post-game news conferences came from Cousins.
Asked his thoughts about the "noise" regarding his head coach being fired, Cousins said, "The noise may be loud for you guys. I think that's your job and it probably should be loud for you. It's really quiet for me. I really insulate myself. I just know I have a job to do and I try to do my job the best I can and that's that."
Maybe that was Cousins' way of saying "No comment," but it sounded like someone who knows he will be the one working for the Wilfs next year.
Receiver Justin Jefferson finished 16 yards shy of passing Randy Moss for most receiving yards in a Vikings season. Zimmer took a beating on social media Sunday afternoon for not engineering the record, and for saying he didn't care about the record.
Zimmer had other priorities. He wanted to win one last game, then pose for one last photo.