Vikings fire coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman, ushering in new era
The Minnesota Vikings announced they fired coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday, marking a new era for the franchise after it missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2013-14.
The Vikings' ownership group met with Spielman and Zimmer on Monday morning "to notify them we will be moving in a different direction" in 2022, the group said in a statement.
"We appreciate Rick and Mike’s commitment to the team’s on-field success, their passion for making a positive impact in our community and their dedication to players, coaches and staff. While these decisions are not easy, we believe it is time for new leadership to elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships. We wish both Rick and Mike and their families only the best," team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said.
"Our comprehensive search for a new general manager and head coach will begin immediately and will be led internally. We are determined to have sustained success and bring Vikings fans the Super Bowl championships they expect and deserve."
Zimmer finishes his eight-year run as the third-winningest coach in franchise history at 72-56-1. Hired in 2014, he was the seventh-longest-tenured coach in the league prior to his dismissal.
"I have given my heart and soul to this organization and to the players," Zimmer said in a statement through the team. "I have had outstanding assistant coaches who have worked tirelessly. I'm sorry we didn't get it done."
Spielman spent 10 of his 16 years with the franchise as general manager. As GM, he oversaw a group that reached the playoffs four times — twice reaching the wild card game (2012, 2015) and losing in the conference championship game (2017) and divisional round (2019).
"I am honored to have been a part of the Minnesota Vikings organization and this incredible community for the past 16 years," Spielman said in a statement Monday. "The people of this state welcomed me and my family and treated us with the utmost respect throughout our tenure. Michelle and I created many special memories with our children here, and we will always consider Minnesota our home."
Minnesota finished the season 8-9 after Sunday's 31-17 win against the Chicago Bears.
"It's not my choice," Zimmer said Sunday after the game. "It's not my decision ... Let's not go there today. You want to talk about it tomorrow, then let's talk about it tomorrow. But this isn't time to reflect for eight years."
Zimmer led the Vikings to the playoffs in alternating years until this season. In 2017, Minnesota went 13-3 and orchestrated the "Minneapolis Miracle," in which quarterback Case Keenum's last-second, 61-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs gave the team a stunning 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs. But the Vikings fell flat in a 38-7 NFC championship game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and they would not win another playoff game under Zimmer after that point.
As he closed out a 7-9 season in 2020, Zimmer said that year's defense was "the worst one I've ever had." The unit continued to struggle this season, allowing just 7.9 fewer yards per game (385.4) than the group did last year.
Prior to Sunday's finale, Zimmer said he had not been notified of the team's intentions.
“Regardless of anything that goes on after the season, I can stand proud,’’ Zimmer said last week in an interview with the team's website. “When I walk into a stadium like Lambeau (Field) or I walk into U.S. Bank Stadium and I say to myself, ‘A billion people would love to be sitting here right now and doing this job.”’
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.