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Vikings pick up 2020 team option on coach Mike Zimmer

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer reacts following a pass interference penalty for the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Dec. 10, 2018. Joe Nicholson / USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- Vikings general manager Rick Spielman buried the lede on Wednesday morning.

Addressing beat writers Feb. 27 at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Spielman talked for more than two and a half minutes before announcing that the Vikings have exercised the team option in coach Mike Zimmer’s contract, a move that keeps him under contract through the 2020 season.

“I don’t think, from our ownership through our entire organization, that we don’t believe in Coach Zimmer,” Spielman said. “He is the right head coach for us to lead us going forward.”

That decision is likely a relief for Zimmer, even though last month he was adamant that he wasn’t concerned about coaching in the final season of his contract.

“I’ve got no problem with that,” Zimmer said. “I’ll be a free agent after that, right?”

Not anymore.

That decision from the front office gives Zimmer at least a little more job security entering his sixth season at the helm. He boasts a 47-32-1 record in five seasons with the franchise and advanced to the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago before getting blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

While he has had plenty of success since arriving in the Twin Cities, some antsy fans were calling for Zimmer’s head after last season when the Vikings went from legitimate contenders to out of the playoffs completely.

“We went through a lot of adversity,” Spielman said. “I don’t ever want to make excuses because every team in the NFL deals with adversity. I just think the impact at the beginning of training camp, losing Tony Sparano, and how sudden that was, and to deal with that (was a challenge).”

Looking past the struggles that plagued last season, Zimmer’s inability to string together back-to-back successful seasons throughout his tenure has become an alarming trend. He followed up an 11-5 record in 2015 with an 8-8 record in 2016, then followed up a 13-3 record in 2017 with an 8-7-1 record in 2018.

Not that anyone in the locker room seems concerned.

“He’s still the guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said earlier this offseason, scoffing at the notion that Zimmer could be on the hot seat. “He ain’t cut no corners. He’s a straight shooter. He’s going to tell us how it is whether we like it or not. He’s going to try to find ways to win.”

That’s what the front office is betting on.

Meanwhile, Spielman declined to broach the subject of his own contract. There have been reports that he is operating in the final season of his deal.

“I’m never going to talk about my situation,” Spielman said. “We usually don’t talk about our contracts or our status. But I know with everything written out there that we did want to make sure everybody understood we did exercise Coach Zimmer’s option through the 2020 season.”