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Hartman: Vikings' Zimmer maintains close ties to Parcells

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 24, 2014 - 12:26 AM

The Wilf brothers Zygi and Mark, owners of the Vikings, have been longtime fans of Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. In fact, there were rumors a few years back that the Vikings were interested in hiring Parcells as coach.

So the Wilfs should be happy that Parcells and new coach Mike Zimmer remain close after he worked for Parcells for four years as his defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, a couple of days ago Parcells sent Zimmer a text message saying to trust his own eyes; to make sure that everyone knows he is the head coach; and to be fair but firm.

“I guess that was it,” Zimmer said. “I learned a lot about football from him, a lot about life. He really taught me a lot of things about being a head coach. Every day [in Dallas] he would walk into my office and say, ‘Write this down. When you’re a head coach remember this.’ I really respect him.”

How nice is it to have a coach like Parcells as a confidant?

“He’s a great adviser,” Zimmer said. “I’ve talked to him several times over the course since I’ve got the job, and obviously prior. Any time I have a question, I’ll call him.”

Zimmer also had another great coaching mentor in his father, Bill.

“My father was a coach for 35 years, he’s in three Hall of Fames,” Zimmer said. “He was the sixth-winningest high school coach in Illinois when he retired, so I have always been impressed with the way he worked and the way he was able to adapt his team to whatever personnel he had.”

Asked if he always wanted to coach, Zimmer replied with a laugh: “No, I always wanted to be a player. I knew I always wanted to be in sports, and it’s just sometimes it goes that way.”

Better than expected

Zimmer was asked for his impression of the Vikings personnel and organization compared to what he expected the day he was hired.

“It is actually much better than what I anticipated it would be,” he said. “The players really like to work. The management, ownership, everybody here, it’s a first-class organization. They want to win, but they want to do things the right way, also. It has been very impressive being able to work with Rick Spielman and the knowledge he has in the draft and running the organization and our vision for the football team together.”

Among the players in camp are the 10 draft picks the Vikings selected in May.

“Quite a few of these young guys have [impressed me],” Zimmer said. “One of our corners that we drafted in the seventh round, Jabari Price, has shown some good things this spring. So I’m anxious to see what he’s going to look like when we get down to training camp. [running back] Jerick McKinnon has done a very nice job. Obviously [Teddy] Bridgewater has had a good spring. Actually quite a few of them. We’re excited about getting going. [defensive tackle]Shamar Stephen has done a really nice job, as well.

Is Matt Cassel the No. 1 quarterback?

“Going into camp he is the No. 1 guy,” Zimmer said. “But we want to have competition and figure out who is the best quarterback for this team at this particular time. Really, what we’re trying to do is figure that out in the next few weeks, and then we’ll make a decision and we’ll go with it.”

Zimmer’s background is in defense, so the hope for many fans is that he improves a unit that was second-to-last in the NFL last year.

“Has to improve a lot, yes,” he said. “Obviously I wasn’t here then, but statistically they didn’t do well in a lot of areas, so that will be a big main focus for us here to get the defense turned around and start going the right way. But I do like the players we have, and we’ll continue to build on that.”

Zimmer was asked for his impression of the Vikings defense last season when Cincinnati played them.

“Well I thought our defense was better at Cincinnati,” he said. “You know, I think they did some good things, I didn’t study as much of their defense when we played that game as I did their offense, obviously.”

Expectations in 2014

Despite all their troubles during a 5-10-1 campaign last year, Zimmer, when asked about his team’s potential for this year, said: “I think we have a chance to be pretty good. I’m anxious to see us go through the training camp, see how we can improve, and then go out there and compete against some other people and see how we play, how we compete, how we work together, how we perform as a team and how we play smart in the right situations. So I’m anxious to see that, just like everybody else is.”

Will the offensive line go back to being a strength of this club?

“It should be,” he said. “We have to continue to get better. [Matt] Kalil missed a lot of time this spring, so we have to get him going. I like [John] Sullivan and he has done a nice job so far. Phil Loadholt has been really, really impressive. It needs to be a strength of our team, and they need to play good.

“I think we have some talent on this team, and I think it’s a lot of young talent so I think we have a chance to improve and improve fairly quickly. Obviously we’re still always looking for more talent, but the biggest thing about talent is getting them to play together as a football team.”

Jottings

• Looking back on the decision in January 2012 not to give Kevin Love a five-year max contract offer and instead offer him a four-year contract with him having the option to opt out after three seasons, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor realizes what a mistake was made by former team president David Kahn. The club wouldn’t be trying to trade Love now if that mistake had not been made.

• The Gophers athletic department is having trouble coming close to reaching their goal of raising the $190 million to improve facilities. But the Foundation for Minnesota Baseball, a group that came up with $450,000 for lights at Siebert Field, is making progress in producing the $8 to $10 million originally budgeted for a hitting facility, new press box, clubhouse and roof over the concourse.

• It’s interesting that both former Twins All-Stars with Colorado, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, are now both on the disabled list.

• Anthony King-Foreman, son of former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman, is expected to be an outstanding linebacker for the University of St. Thomas this year.

• Gophers second baseman Connor Schaefbauer is hitting .321 for Rochester in the Northwoods League with a team-high 30 runs scored.

• While the NFL owners did not approve a rule change on extra-point kicks for the regular season, they will experiment with moving the ball back to the 15-yard line for the first two weeks of the preseason, which will make for a 33-yard PAT. The regular season kicks will remain spotted at the 2-yard line.

 

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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