Nobody was happier to hear the news that Mike Zimmer would become the next Vikings coach than Jerome Simpson, not only because it brings one of the great defensive minds to the Purple but also because it means there is a better chance the free-agent wide receiver will return this fall.
Simpson spent four years with the Bengals before joining the Vikings in 2012, catching 71 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns with Cincinnati. He also watched Zimmer’s defense finish in the NFL’s top 10 twice, and the team reached the playoffs two times.
“Oh man he’s a great coach,” Simpson said Wednesday. “He’s going to bring that hard-nosed football back to Minnesota. I’m pretty sure the people of Minnesota are going to really like him, the players will like him, too. I think he’s a pretty good players coach. He’s going to bring good things to Minnesota.
“I like him. I was there with him in Cincinnati and he did a tremendous job with that team and I know he will do an even better job here in Minnesota.”
Simpson was asked what makes Zimmer such a successful defensive coach.
“Because he instilled discipline in the guys,” Simpson said. “The guys believed in what he was doing. He’s just a good coach and he has an open mind. He makes adjustments very well, especially in pressure situations. He adjusts well.”
Simpson, who was second to Greg Jennings on the 2013 Vikings both in receptions (48) and receiving yards (726), talked about Zimmer’s relationship with his players.
“He keeps his players disciplined. He has a good system that he likes to use and the players respect him,” he said. “That’s one thing that I noticed when I was at Cincinnati was that the players respected the guy. I definitely respect him, too.”
Zimmer has been an NFL assistant for 20 years, including the past 14 as a defensive coordinator with Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati, but this is his first head coaching job. Simpson believes, as do many in the NFL, that Zimmer is ready to make the next step.
“I think he has the personality, the discipline to keep a team together, and I think he’ll be a great head coach here,” Simpson said. “I’ve seen it in him when I was in Cincinnati that he lead that defensive group. He kept everybody in check and on the same page and organized. He will be a great head coach here.”
While Simpson did say that the Bengals had good personnel on defense during his four years there, he also noted that it takes a good coach to get even talented players to do as well as Cincinnati did under Zimmer.
“That’s giving credit to Zimmer because he helped put those guys in position and put a good system in so they could learn and be the player that they are and reach their potential,” he said.
Simpson, 27, said he is hopeful to return to the Vikings next season. He had one of the best years of his NFL career this past season, and he believes he can only improve by playing for a coach with whom he already is familiar.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I really want to be back here next year,” Simpson said. “It will be really fun to reunite with Zimmer again because he knows me and knows my personality and knows how I play, because he’s seen me for basically all of my years there at Cincinnati. He knows the player that I am and what I can do. I think he believes in me. He always gave me compliments on my work ethic when I was back at Cincinnati. I really would love to play for him and reach my potential and everything with him.”
Winning title big
Tim Brewster, the former Gophers football coach who now coaches tight ends for Florida State, talked about how great it was to be on a team that won a championship after being in coaching for 27 years.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brewster said. “It was kind of surreal, to be quite honest with you. It’s just now settling in. I’m at my place in Naples, Florida, and we’ve had a chance to relax for a couple of days and really let it sink in.”
Brewster sent out a number of posts on Twitter this year praising the Gophers. He was asked if he still feels a connection to the program.
“I really do,” he said. “I have a great deal of pride. I poured my heart and soul into helping the Gophers become a championship-caliber football program, that didn’t happen,” he said. “I didn’t win enough games to keep the job at Minnesota, but I certainly watch them and have a great deal of pride.
“Really proud of Ra’Shede Hageman and the job he did. He’s going to be a great NFL player. A lot of things to be proud of that went on at Minnesota while we were there. I watch them now, and Jerry Kill is doing an outstanding job at Minnesota. I think he’s going to lead Minnesota to a Big Ten championship at some point, because I still believe that can happen there.”
Brewster was asked, looking back, if there was anything he would have done differently in his four years with the Gophers. He went 15-30, including two bowl losses, before being fired in October 2010.
“There’s no question that I made mistakes as the head coach at Minnesota,” he said. “I think a lot of it had to do with the changeover on the staff and the continuity of the staff is so critical to your success and we just had too much change. That was certainly my fault and that’s one of the things that I regret.”
• Gordy Shaw, the former Gophers assistant coach who has been at South Dakota, Hawaii, Idaho and Texas State since leaving here, has been hired as the offensive line coach with the University of Houston, where the head coach is former Gophers player Tony Levine.
• Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen is in Florida practicing for the East-West Shrine Game, which will take place Saturday and be televised on the NFL Network. The next day, Brock’s brother, Shane Vereen, will play in the AFC Championship Game for the Patriots against former Gophers star Eric Decker and the Broncos.
• Louis Nanne, the grandson of hockey legend Lou Nanne, is playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League. The Wild draft pick has two points in 12 games this season. Louis’ brother Tyler Nanne, who is playing at Edina High School, committed to play at Ohio State last week.
• Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe is second in rebounding in Italy’s top league, averaging 9.7 rebounds per game for Virtus Rome. He also is averaging 9.4 points per contest. His teammates include Jordan Taylor, the former Wisconsin and Benilde-St. Margaret’s standout.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com