To say the least, it was a very good year for those in charge of the Minnesota Vikings. When your team finishes 13-3 and reaches the NFC Championship Game against expectations, you are going to grade out well.
As such, here are grades for the Vikings’ general manager and top coaches.
General Manager Rick Spielman: A+
Spielman had a star-making year as a decision-maker in 2017. He got off to a great start with the draft, selecting three rookie starters in Dalvin Cook, Pat Elflein and Ben Gedeon. Keep in mind, he was able to do this without a first-round pick; Cook was a second-rounder, Elflein a third-rounder and Gedeon a fourth. He also made the bold decision to completely overhaul the offensive line, signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers for the tackle spots and releasing veteran Alex Boone. That move paid off in spades as the line took a dramatic leap in productivity this year. Plus, he found good depth at the running back position by bringing in Latavius Murray, who ultimately became the primary back after Cook’s injury.
But his greatest move even Spielman would admit was as much fortune as it was skill on his part. Case Keenum was a good choice as a backup to Sam Bradford in the offseason. He had experience as a short-term starter and had the ability to keep the ship afloat in the likely even Bradford went down. Little did Spielman know that Keenum would not only keep the ship above water, he would steer it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Limited as Keenum may be, there is no question that his signing all but saved the Vikings’ season.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer: A
The game plan for the Championship Game is going to leave a cloud over the season for Zimmer. Here, it was enough to dock his final grade from a perfect score to a measly A. That being said, what Zimmer did for the Vikings the other 19 weeks of the season cannot be overstated. Losing a starting quarterback should be a death knell to a season. Losing the starting running back should only exacerbate the situation. Yet somehow, the Vikings ended up tied for the best record in the entire NFL. If that is not a testament to a positive culture in the locker room, then nothing is.
And that is not even mentioning Zimmer’s scheming acumen. The Vikings finished with the top scoring defense in all of football. Granted, they have a great deal of star power on the defense, including five Pro Bowlers. But they also have a coach who calls aggressive defenses with creative blitz and coverage schemes. Zimmer was a master of confusion in 2017. As a result, he finished with the second-most Coach of the Year votes, just behind Sean McVay.
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur: A
Sometimes things just gel. That is the story of the Vikings’ offensive season. Shurmur and his personnel gelled. He and Keenum were simpatico from the start, utilizing play action and roll outs to perfection. He used motion, receiver splits and route combinations to allow Keenum to get the ball out quick and still find wide open receivers. Shurmur maintained balance to keep the defensive box full and the play action game effective. Simply put, Shurmur earned himself a head coaching gig with his work with the Vikings’ offense this season and this season alone. Like Zimmer, he earns a bit of a grade-docking for an odd Championship Game gameplan. But throughout the regular season, Shurmur was the perfect coordinator to bring the best out of his personnel.
Defensive Coordinator George Edwards: A
Edwards gets little to no credit for the Vikings’ schemes. It makes some sense; the defense is Zimmer’s, the play-calling is Zimmer’s. But Edwards works directly alongside Zimmer every step of the way, even working more directly with individual players. The defense would not look quite the same without Edwards, hence the minor Twitter firestorm when an eroneous report of his leaving was released. Edwards has been with Zimmer since his start in Minnesota, and given the success they have had together, he likely will not be going anywhere until he gets a head coaching job of his own.