The Philadelphia Eagles held the city’s first Super Bowl parade on Feb. 8. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer came to Philly to interview Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo in the hours after the parade and convinced him to become their offensive coordinator.
Pat Shurmur, who had that job for the 2017 season, was hired as the coach of the New York Giants, and he wanted to hire Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to be his offensive coordinator.
Stefanski had a contract and the Vikings refused to let him leave. Zimmer offered this explanation:
“Loyalty to me is a big thing. So, I come in here four years ago and the offense is 29th, 27th, 26th. But I keep them. So, the first time our offense is pretty good, then I’m supposed to let all my coaches leave?
“If I’m going to be loyal to them … then I don’t think they should not be loyal to me.”
That comment is hilarious, and for a reason other than a horrendous double negative as the punchline.
Zimmer had no track record for loyalty to offensive assistants when he made that comment, and his hypocrisy on that topic reached a new level this week when he was allowed to fire DeFilippo — 11 months after the coach and Spielman made the quick trip to Philly filled with promises that would lure him to Minnesota.
What Zim imagines in moments of introspection is being a boss of great loyalty, not the head coach who ran off offensive line coach Jeff Davidson in January 2016 in flippant fashion, and then took away power from the much-respected veteran, Norv Turner, who left in the middle of the 2016 season.
When asked why he decided against renewing Davidson, Zimmer offered the classy response: “I didn’t want to.”
When he spent all night at Winter Park waiting for Turner to arrive in the morning to tell Norv he was taking away much of his power, Turner chose to quit, and Zimmer managed a sad, broken voice when talking about it with the media that afternoon.
Everything was terrific in 2017, until Zimmer’s defenders threw up on his scheme at Philly in the NFC title game — such a jolt to Zim’s ego as a defensive savant that one theory on why the coach was so anxious to hire DeFilippo was to get an inside look at how the Eagles destroyed his No. 1-rated defense.
Zimmer faced expectations as a head coach for the first time in 2016 (after the playoff season of 2015). At the first appearance those might go unmet, his impatience burst forth in running off Turner.
The expectations entering 2018 — Super Bowl! — were much greater after Kirk Cousins was added to a 13-3 team. This time, Zim’s over-the-top impatience didn’t make it past Week 2 at Green Bay. Rookie Daniel Carlson missed three field goals and Zimmer strong-armed Spielman into dumping the strong-legged fifth-round draft choice.
Spielman seems a more popular target than Zimmer among Vikings fans unhappy over the current 6-6-1 record, and that is ridiculous. From here, two of Spielman’s major problems are Zimmer-based:
One being that Zimmer impatience, and the other being his theory that the offense should be doing what it can to protect his defense, rather than the other way around.
I’m mystified at what Spielman has allowed Zimmer to get away with in personnel (player and coach) matters in 2018. It started even before the castoff Carlson, in the first round of the draft when cornerback Mike Hughes was taken over guard Will Hernandez.
Anybody really think it wasn’t Zimmer seeing Hughes’ athletic talent and proclaiming, “You can never have enough corners; I need this guy,” that greatly influenced that decision?
As it turned out, the Vikings did get a starting lineman — right tackle Brian O’Neill — in the second round, so the idea that Spielman ignored that area in the draft is inaccurate.
The greatest mystery is that Spielman let Zimmer cut Carlson after two games. Blair Walsh was Zimmer’s kicker for 42 games before the coach convinced Spielman to cut him in the middle of 2016. Carlson gets two, and now he’s in Oakland, drilling field goals.
This week, it’s another offensive coordinator that’s gone, the victim of a head coach who wanted more runs in the offense even after the Vikings scored 37 points vs. the Jets at the end of October.
Anything Kevin Stefanski can accomplish offensively in this final stretch — home with Miami, at Detroit, home with a Bears team that will have the division clinched — will be celebrated by Zimmer and Purple fans, even though there would be no real reason to suspect that a DeFilippo offense couldn’t have done the same with a three-week finish set up for success.
Assuming the playoffs are reached and both the GM and coach are retained, here’s a suggestion for Spielman in 2019:
You’re the boss. Stop listening to Zim. When properly frustrated, his impatience turns to the irrational.