After a 1-5 start, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is under the microscope of criticism.
Some might call the location under the looking glass a hot seat. Aaron Rodgers thinks that is hogwash.
“He’s a phenomenal coach,” Rodgers said of Zimmer. “I was telling a friend of mine, to see (Zimmer) mentioned to be on the hot seat, to me, is absolutely crazy. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the league and has been for a long time.
“They don’t all give you the trouble and the scheme that Mike does. I have a lot of respect for the way he coaches and the way he especially coaches defense.”
Typically a strong suit of the Vikings, the defense has not held up its end of the bargain this season, currently sitting at 28th in yards allowed per game and 30th in points allowed per game. A lot of that has to do with personnel changes, including a high-profile addition — edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue — that simply didn’t work out. Veteran defensive end Everson Griffen left in free agency, and elite defensive end Danielle Hunter also hasn’t played a down in 2020. He won’t suit up until next year after undergoing successful neck surgery this week.
There were also the departures of Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander, which forced general manager Rick Spielman to remake much of the cornerbacks group (the safety group remained intact) in one offseason. That’s how Minnesota ended up starting rookie Cameron Dantzler at one corner and relying on fellow rookie Jeff Gladney in sub packages, which Zimmer’s defense uses on 58.2 percent of plays, per Next Gen Stats.
Rodgers noted the changes, which don’t end with what was explained above, when talking about his upcoming opponent. But it was clear in his soft-spoken statement he believes Minnesota’s record is not the fault of Zimmer, a coach who is known for conjuring defensive nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. That group includes Rodgers, whose Packers were 1-4-1 and scored just 18 points per game against the Vikings from 2016-2018 before rattling off three straight wins in 2019 and 2020 with an average scoring output of 29 points per game.
It’s fairly likely the current unbeaten streak will continue Sunday for Green Bay, which is firing on all cylinders and won a shootout against the Vikings in Week 1. And while 1-6 won’t sit any better with Vikings fans (and an upset win sure would help), take Rodgers’ word for it: Perhaps 2020’s struggles aren’t entirely the fault of Zimmer.