The start of the 2020 season was filled with optimism for the Minnesota Vikings. Fans were dancing with joy when the team made a last-minute deal for Yannick Ngakoue and with a powerful running game and strong defense, they could compete in the NFC North.
Instead, the Vikings are limping into their bye week with a 1-5 record and studying Tankathon to see what it will take for the New York Jets to win a game.
With a start like this, there's plenty of people to share the blame. But narrowing it down to three, who deserves to shoulder the bulk of the blame?
With a start like this, the head coach is usually the first one to fall on the sword. As Zimmer is the most public figure of the Vikings' brain trust, a push to have Zimmer removed from his duties is to be expected.
Going into the season, Zimmer boldly said "I've never had a bad defense." He has now, as the group has coughed up 32 points per game. But as Zimmer's mentor Bill Parcells has said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."
For now, Zimmer has been trying to make chicken salad out of chicken-you-know-what. While the defense has long term potential, a lot of the pieces need experience to make the desired impact -- especially at cornerback.
Zimmer has also tried to pick up new habits such as going for it on fourth down at the end of the Seahawks game and playing more of his rookies over established veterans.
There are still things that are on Zimmer, such as a coaching staff led by two pillars of the 1996 conference championship games – Gary Kubiak and Dom Capers – but there's still a sense this isn't entirely his fault.
The next stop on the tour leads us into the offices of TCO Performance Center where Rick Spielman has built this underachieving roster.
Dating back to the Vikings' playoff victory in New Orleans, Spielman's mistakes began when he ran to the visiting locker room to hand Kirk Cousins a contract extension after one playoff win.
When the deal became finalized, the Vikings appeared to be poised to compete in the NFC...and then traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills....and then signed Michael Pierce...and then traded down to accumulate 15 draft picks...and traded for Ngakoue!
With the decisiveness of a cover band that wanted to play Slipknot and Miley Cyrus, the Vikings sent mixed signals the entire offseason about a halfway rebuild. As we can see now, it failed miserably.
Even with Spielman's flaws, it's not all bad. The Vikings' draft class was high on quantity, but there's also quality to go with it. Justin Jefferson looks like a superstar in the making, Cameron Dantzler should be a solid corner for years to come and D.J. Wonnum has begun to flash in the trenches.
Last year was an extreme example of Spielman relying on late-round gems, but he has a solid track record of building a foundation for this team to succeed.
We now progress to our main event as Cousins looks like the biggest mistake the Vikings have made in years. With the pressure on to win a Super Bowl since he set foot in Minnesota, Cousins has hit rock bottom this season.
Cousins leads the NFL in interceptions after Week 6 and seems to be a quarterback reliant on rookie mistakes. As he's keyed onto his first read, Cousins has become the NFL's version of Ron Burgandy. He will do anything the play tells him to do. An-y-thing-ah.
Overall, Cousins has simply and obviously failed to rise above the offense's shortcomings. The offensive line has struggled to keep him clean, which has appeared to make him see ghosts in the pocket.
On paper, Cousins looks like he's having a decent season with 1,475 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he's also on pace to join Jameis Winston in the 30/30 club...as in 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season.
While Cousins is the biggest problem, he's the most entrenched of the three options. Cousins' contract carries a massive cap hit that will see the Vikings eat a $45 million cap hit if they decide to cut him next March or if they let his current three-year extension play out.
Even if the Vikings want to trade Cousins, no team will be willing (or be able) to take on that contract, leaving the Vikings stuck in a bind. In the end, it might be Zimmer and Spielman who take the fall while Cousins makes sure his checks clear.