Mike Zimmer: The right fit for the Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2014 - 6:26 PM

Everyone was on the same page, as everyone always is the day an NFL franchise changes course with the formal introduction of a new head coach who is nothing like his most-recently fired predecessor.

Never mind that once upon a time, that fired predecessor stood in that very same spot under that very same shower of accolades and hopeful promises that everyone will fit perfectly onto that magical page. Truth is no one knows if that new page will be filled with the smiles of a Super Bowl victory or another stretch of gameday frowns that will lead to yet another coach being introduced.

On Friday, Mark Wilf, Vikings owner and president, introduced former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the team’s new head coach by saying, “We have selected a head coach who will be a great leader for many years to come.” Three years, 14 days and fewer than 50 games earlier, Wilf stood in the same spot and said, “Clearly, Leslie Frazier is the right man for the job.”

At first, Frazier and Rick Spielman, who was then vice president for player personnel, shared equal strength over personnel. Zygi Wilf, Vikings owner and chairman, said it was the “proper system,” yet the team changed course a year later, elevating Spielman to general manager with final say on all personnel.

Eventually, Spielman and Frazier ended up on opposite pages, particularly at two of the most critical positions: quarterback and cornerback. For example, last October, as Frazier was practically begging for cornerback Antoine Winfield’s return, Spielman was using $2 million to sign quarterback Josh Freeman. No other team signed Winfield, but Freeman played in only one game for the Vikings.

Coaches’ sons, kindred spirits

To portray Frazier as a “yes” man isn’t entirely fair. But it’s safe to say his most candid public criticism of Spielman, particularly the latter’s own admission that he hasn’t fared well at picking quarterbacks, came once it was obvious that Frazier’s exit was imminent.

Zimmer, on the other hand, enters the picture having built a 35-year coaching reputation on excellent defenses and an honest, outspoken personality that’s as blunt as a sledgehammer between the eyes. It’s a reputation enhanced or some would say distorted by the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” of which Zimmer has been an expletive-filled part in three different seasons.

“I know that type of person,” Spielman said. “I took quite a few of those hammers to the forehead from my dad. I’m used to it. I think it will be good for us. I’m looking forward to that relationship when it comes time to discuss the roster.”

Spielman’s late father, Sonny, was a blue-collar high school coach whose honesty often came wrapped in a verbal punch to the nose. Spielman and his younger brother, Chris, both played for Sonny when he was an assistant at Massillon (Ohio) Washington High School.

Zimmer’s father, Bill, sounds like the same person, only he coached his son at Lockport (Ill.) Township High School.

“My father was the quarterback and my granddad was the coach,” said Adam Zimmer, the Bengals’ defensive backs coach. “My father tells the story of how he threw an interception and came over to the sideline and my granddad punched him in the stomach. So, yeah, my granddad was a hard-nosed guy, too.”

It’s that kindred spirit that Spielman and Zimmer drew comfort from during an initial interview that lasted 10 hours and a second interview that lasted almost as long.

‘You just know’

Spielman had interviewed six other candidates during a three-week search. But it was Zimmer, who had gone 0-for-5 in five previous head coaching interviews, who stole the show before any other candidate gained a second interview.

“It’s like when I met my wife,” Spielman said. “You just know.”

Zimmer also said the bond with Spielman feels right. He also said his bluntness won’t keep the two from staying on the same page.

“We will be fine,” he said. “I can get mad at people. I’m sure he can get mad at people, but we understand that both of our butts are responsible for each other. So the first time we say the heck with you and we go in the other room and we don’t come back out [to reach a consensus], it’s over.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Gophers head coach?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close