New Vikings coach Zimmer sets championship as his goal

Introduced as the Vikings coach, Mike Zimmer sets his sights high.

Mike Zimmer, Zygi Wilf and Rick Spielman coordinated their attire for Zimmer’s introductory news conference as Vikings coach Friday.

Well, for the most part.

They stood together with dark-colored suits, white dress shirts and purple ties. Zimmer, however, wore an accessory neither the owner nor general manager own: a Super Bowl ring.

Zimmer’s Super Bowl XXX ring he received as Cowboys defensive backs coach in 1995 reflected the confidence he carried at the podium. The ninth head coach for the winningest franchise without a Super Bowl victory wasn’t shy in saying his goal is to guide the Vikings to uncharted territory as NFL champions.

“I can’t wait to stand on the podium with [owners] Zygi, and Mark and Jonathan [Wilf], and we’re standing on the podium and we look up and the confetti is falling on top of us, and Commissioner [Roger] Goodell comes over and he hands the Super Bowl trophy to Mr. Wilf and tells him we’re world champions,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer was a finalist for a number of NFL head coaching positions over the past few years, including the Tennessee Titans this week, before getting his first opportunity in Minnesota.

“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” the former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator said. “I want to make sure that 31 other teams know that I’m here and I’m ready to coach this football team.

“I just know that I’m pretty good at my job. I’m pretty good at what I do. And it’s kind of showing up by the players that have talked about me.”

Zimmer plans to establish relationships with his players the way he did in Cincinnati. He said he wasn’t “buddy-buddy” with the players, didn’t take them out to dinner or have their cellphone numbers, but simply earned their respect as a leader.

“I want to grab these players’ hearts and get them to follow me,” he said.

Involved on defense

The 57-year-old downplayed the idea that he is blunt and a screamer, as suggested on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and in previous interviews. Zimmer instead used “fixer” to describe his coaching style. The Bengals were 27th in total defense in 2007 before Zimmer arrived. They finished the past three years with a top-10 defense in the NFL. The Vikings finished last season 31st in defense.

“I’ve told my players many, many times before when we’ve had a bad game,” Zimmer said. “I said, ‘Here’s what I do. I fix stuff. I’m going to go out, and I’m going to fix this.’ They all trust that I’m going to get it fixed. That’s kind of what my personality is.”

Zimmer intends to be very involved with the defense, possibly even as a playcaller, but he not concerned at the moment whether it will be a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense. He just wants the scheme to fit his personnel while bringing the same aggressive approach as the Bengals defense last season.

“I want to stop the run, and I want to hit the quarterback,” Zimmer said. “So, however that is, if we’ve got to blitz I think we have a great blitz package. But I want to be fundamentally sound in what we do.”

Whirlwind so far

Although he has an extended background in defense, Zimmer will have a final say on offense as well. Inconsistency at quarterback between Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder led to the end of the Leslie Frazier era. Zimmer aims to have more than just a season-long starter at the position.

“We’re going to try to do our very best to have the best quarterback in the division,” Zimmer said. “I understand there are some very good quarterbacks in this division. But my job is to win football games.”

Zimmer said the last two days have been a “whirlwind” as he adjusted into his new position, but he spoke like someone determined to prove he is worthy to be a head coach.

If he can find a way to get a diamond-encrusted Norseman ring on the fingers of the Wilfs, it will be a while before Zimmer’s next introductory news conference.







 

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