The Minnesota Vikings head to New Orleans Sunday as significant underdogs. To be clear, just about any visitor would be an underdog in a playoff game at the Superdome, especially against this Saints team -- 13-3 and hellbent on cashing in after two straight heartbreaking playoff losses.
A loss would see the Vikings drop three straight games to close the season and, according to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, could trigger major changes in Minnesota. She writes:
Minnesota exercised its option on Zimmer, 63, during the offseason, which means he's under contract through 2020, but a bad loss in New Orleans could mean the franchise opts to go a different direction at the top.
All speculation is couched with the phrase that Minnesota would not just have to lose, but lose ugly. A 31-21 loss isn't ugly, but is 38-21? And how much does one or two extra touchdowns really matter when you're determining the direction of your franchise?
At best, a loss would mean Zimmer returns in 2020 for a lame-duck season. General manager Rick Spielman and quarterback Kirk Cousins also have contracts set to expire in 2020, and Cronin writes that Sunday's game is a possible hinge point: a win could trigger extensions, and a blowout loss could lead to a teardown.
Adding to the intrigue, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is viewed as a legitimate head coaching candidate across the league. In fact, the Cleveland Browns were set to hire him until reversing course to hire Freddie Kitchens last January.
Ironically, the Vikings could execute their own Browns-esque move by firing Zimmer and then promoting Stefanski in response to his interest elsewhere.
In the event Minnesota does make a change, Zimmer could instantly figure in the Dallas Cowboys' impending search. Zimmer has a long history in Dallas, first arriving as the defensive backs coach on Barry Switzer's staff and remaining on through the Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells regimes. He was the club's defensive coordinator from 2000-06.
After the original publishing of this article, the Vikings released this statement.
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