EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he has no problem being a lame-duck coach in 2019.
Four days after the Vikings’ once-promising season came to a screeching halt with the team finishing 8-7-1 and missing the playoffs, Zimmer addressed his job status at his year-end news conference.
Both Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have contracts that expire after the 2019 season, multiple sources told ESPN. If the 62-year-old Zimmer does not receive a contract extension from ownership before then, he will coach out the final year of his deal without resolution on what happens beyond next season.
That scenario isn’t an issue for Zimmer.
“Sure, I’ve got no problem with that. Free agent after that, right?” Zimmer quipped.
The day after a 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears, Vikings players voiced praise for Zimmer on locker clean-out day, leaving little doubt that the fifth-year head coach still has the support of the locker room.
“I think he is a phenomenal leader,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “He’s a guy who cares a ton about us as players and about winning, and he’s the guy who, we respect him, we love him as our guy, and we want to fight for him. So I don’t think there’s anybody in this locker room or upstairs who’s questioning his ability to help us win games. We have to do things to take care of him as players, and we didn’t do that well enough this year.”
Added cornerback Xavier Rhodes: “Yeah, he’s still the guy. He ain’t cut no corners. He’s a straight shooter. He’s going to tell you how it is whether you like it or not. He’s going to try to find ways to win, so he’s the guy.”
The vote of confidence Zimmer received from both ownership and players helps back the notion that he’s safe for at least another season, but its significance is something the coach downplayed.
“Honestly, it doesn’t really mean that much,” Zimmer said. “I never had any doubt that anybody was not supporting me or anything like that. I think if you look over the five-year track record, but unfortunately, this is a what-did-you-do-for-me-now.”
Speaking for the first time since Sunday, Zimmer also dispelled rumors that he was considering resigning after such a disastrous finish.
“No, I can’t believe somebody even threw that out there,” he said. “No, it was totally 100 percent, what do they call it? ‘Hashtag fake news’ or something? I’m not a quitter.”
Though his job status is secure going forward, Zimmer will spend time this offseason assessing his own performance as a coach, including what he can do to help this team find its edge and get back on track.
“There are a lot of things we’ve got to get cleaned up,” he said. “Like I told the team the other day, we’re going to evaluate everything very thoroughly, including myself, and then we’re going to go from there.”