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Hartman: Parcells thrilled by Vikings' choice of Zimmer

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • January 17, 2014 - 12:31 AM

Add Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells to the list of football geniuses who believe that the Vikings selected a winning coach in Mike Zimmer.

“When I went to Dallas [in 2003] he had been the defensive coach there and they thought highly of him,” Parcells said Wednesday, the day the Vikings hired the Bengals defensive coordinator to replace Leslie Frazier. “You know I talked to him and decided to keep him.”

Zimmer had been Cowboys defensive coordinator since 2000, spending three years working under Dave Campo. Parcells said that under him, Zimmer utilized a different kind of defensive scheme than he had in the past and that Dallas eventually transitioned to the 3-4 system.

“The thing I like about him the best is he’s a coach’s son, he understands the game, and he understands the things that go with the game,” Parcells said. “I think that’s a great advantage when you grow up and your whole life has been football, and football has been in your house every night. I think it’s a great advantage.

“My experience with people like Mike and Bill Belichick and the guys I’ve had that were coach’s sons, is they’re very, very dedicated, they’re very diligent and hard work is never a problem. That’s why I think he has a good chance to be successful.”

Parcells said he gave Zimmer complete control of the defense with the Cowboys.

“Yes he did [have control],” said Parcells. “Now you know I always try to keep my hand in as best I could, but yeah, he was in charge.”

Parcells and Zimmer went 34-32 in their four years together in Dallas, including a pair of playoff losses.

“We weren’t great,” said Parcells about his teams in Dallas. “I would say we were OK, we were average. We went to the playoffs a couple of times in four years, but I wouldn’t say we had a great team.”

Still, the two-time Super Bowl winner said that he was surprised it took this long for Zimmer to get a head coaching position. Parcells did note that defensive coaches haven’t been as in demand the past few years when it came to NFL head coaching vacancies.

“Well that’s a good question, you know it’s more in vogue now to go with these quarterback coaches and offensive coaches,” Parcells said. “People feel that the game is more offense-oriented now than ever before, and they think that those are the guys that are going to be successful. But I, of course, don’t believe that necessarily.”

Parcells pointed out that one of Zimmer’s great characteristic is his ability to handle players.

“The players are going to love him,” he said. “They’re going to love him. But this isn’t going to be any church picnic, now. He’ll be tough on them.”

Does he believe that Zimmer is ready for the position?

“Oh yeah, I think he has been ready for quite some time,” Parcells said. “I’m very hopeful that he does well. But so much of this is based on the support system and what he has. But I think being with Rick Spielman is going to help, because you know Rick is a coach’s son, too. I think that combination is pretty good.”

When Parcells was told about the defensive struggles the Vikings had in close losses this season, he said he is excited to see if Zimmer can change some of that.

“I’m just hopeful that he can come in and do a good job,” he said. “Being a head coach is a little different than being a defensive coordinator. There will be a little period of adjustment for him, but I think he’s ready to try to make that.”

Solution for Wolves

Timberwolves President Flip Saunders was asked Sunday how his team can turn around their 0-10 record in games decided by four points or less. That record fell to 0-11 following their three-point loss to the lowly Kings at home Wednesday.

“To win close games down the stretch you have to shoot free throws, you have to not turn the ball over, you have to make multiple defensive stops, and unfortunately for us in a lot of those games, three of those things we haven’t been able to do at times,” he said. “It’s part of a growing-up process for some of our players, some of our young players.

“But I think the biggest thing where we can make our biggest improvement is going to be at the defensive end, and when we defend and don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good team. And when we don’t defend and we turn the ball over, we’re not a very good team.”

O’Brien moves up

Dan O’Brien was director of football operations for the Gophers, but he was recently promoted to senior associate athletic director overseeing the football program and athletic facilities. That means O’Brien has replaced David Benedict, who was in charge of football but left for Auburn.

This is a move coach Jerry Kill wanted so that only athletic director Norwood Teague is involved in final big decisions on football. Adam Clark will do a lot of things O’Brien did in his previous position.

As for O’Brien, he is so good at what he does. He is Kill’s right-hand man, and a good one.

Jottings

• One of the hot rumors in downtown Minneapolis is that the Pohlad family, which just spent some $40 million in remodeling the old Ford Center, might build a skyway from Target Field to the Ford Center and make part of the building into a museum. And the word is the Pohlads have some big plans for the Shapco Printing building in the area that they recently purchased.

• Former Gophers receiver Eric Decker is taking on a different role for the Broncos in the postseason, as he is now the team’s punt returner after handling only one punt during the regular season. Decker had three punt returns in the Broncos’ 24-17 victory over San Diego on Sunday, including a 47-yard return. Decker told the Denver Post this week, “I feel like it’s a strength of my game — to help out as much as possible with the ball in my hands. … The more chances I get, the more opportunities I get. I love it.”

• With Jim Caldwell being hired as Detroit Lions coach, the Baltimore Ravens need an offensive coordinator. A number of reports coming out of Baltimore, including the Ravens’ own website, say that former Vikings coach Brad Childress is a candidate. Childress spent this season with the Kansas City Chiefs as a spread game analyst.

• In addition to Gophers safety Brock Vereen playing in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game, the all-star football game in St. Petersburg, Fla., will also feature North Dakota State cornerback Marcus Williams of Hopkins High School and Wisconsin defensive lineman Beau Allen of Minnetonka.

 

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. • shartman@startribune.com

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