New Vikings coach, straight-shooting Zimmer, finally gets his shot

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2014 - 12:30 AM

Longtime assistant Mike Zimmer loves a powerful, aggressive defense and talking straight to his players.

Mike Zimmer was known around Cincinnati Bengals headquarters as a gruff, straight-shooting, salty-tongued defensive mastermind with a football focus so intense that he once put off skin cancer surgery until after training camp and even coached three days after his wife, Vikki, died unexpectedly in their Ohio home.

“Sometimes, his emotions come out, but not all the time,” said his son, Adam, a Bengals assistant coach. “He’s passionate because he wants to be the best at what he does.”

The Vikings, who hired Zimmer as head coach Wednesday, are banking on that aggressive mentality to transform a franchise coming off an unexpected 5-10-1 meltdown. As is typical with NFL coaching changes, the Vikings have initiated a personality U-turn at the top after parting ways Dec. 30 with Leslie Frazier, a laid-back leader who went 21-33-1 over three-plus seasons.

Zimmer, 57, was one of seven candidates to interview and 10 that received interest from the Vikings during a three-week search by General Manager Rick Spielman. Zimmer, a 35-year coaching veteran who has never been a head coach at any level, will officially become the ninth head coach in the Vikings’ 54-year history when he’s introduced at a Friday morning news conference.

“I’m extremely excited to bring a championship to the state of Minnesota and to the great fan base of the Vikings,” Zimmer said on a Vikings video release Wednesday night. “Can’t wait to get to work.”

Zimmer was born into a football-loving family on June 5, 1956. His father, Bill, played at Bradley and signed with the San Francisco 49ers but was injured and never played a regular-season NFL game.

Bill Zimmer was a high school football coach in the early 1970s when Mike was an all-conference star in football, baseball and wrestling at Lockport Township High School in Illinois. Mike went to Illinois State as a quarterback before moving to linebacker because of a broken thumb.

Like Bill Zimmer, an injury ended Mike’s playing career, in his case before he left college. It also set him on his path toward a coaching career. That career has been spent strictly on the defensive side of the ball and saw him passed over after five previous head coaching interviews, including a second meeting Monday with the Tennessee Titans.

‘Hard Knocks’ star

When Wednesday’s news broke, Vikings players reached out to their peers to get a better sense of the man most people know only from his curse-filled outbursts on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Zimmer has been on the cable series three times — once in Dallas and twice with the Bengals, including last summer.

At times, cameras also have captured Zimmer’s softer side.

Three days after his wife’s sudden death, Zimmer coached the Bengals defense in a 17-14 victory over Baltimore. In an emotional postgame scene, Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis gave Zimmer the game ball, and he broke down after a brief speech to his players.

“She was the sweetest, kindest, most caring person who’d never say a bad word about anybody,” Zimmer told espn.com in a story following Vikki’s death.

But Zimmer’s usual field presence is a loud, R-rated, no-nonsense coach who isn’t afraid to get in his players’ faces.

“I talked to [Bengals safety] Taylor Mays and [Vikings receiver] Jerome Simpson, who was there with coach Zimmer,” fullback Jerome Felton said. “Coach Frazier and coach Zimmer have different styles, no question about it. But I feel if a person is a straight shooter, that’s what matters. Whether you come at that as being a little rough around the edges, like coach Zimmer is, or real laid-back, like coach Frazier, I think players respect that and gravitate toward that.

“At the end of the day, the league doesn’t owe you much, but if you at least get a coach that can give it to you straight, you can respect that.”

Still, there will be an adjustment period, particularly when training camp starts in July.

“I never heard Leslie curse or even raise his voice,” Felton said. “I heard more curse words and yelling from one episode of ‘Hard Knocks’ than I heard in my whole time here with Leslie. So it’s going to be different.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 0 1st Qtr 14:42
Rice 7
UAB 0 1st Qtr 10:29
Arkansas 7
Rutgers 0 1st Qtr 7:45
(16) Nebraska 0
Maryland 0 1st Qtr 13:21
Wisconsin 0
Texas 0 1st Qtr 9:45
(11) Kansas State 0
Minnesota 0 1st Qtr 9:31
Illinois 7
Memphis 0 1st Qtr 11:17
SMU 0
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Los Angeles 1:30 PM
Seattle
D.C. 3:00 PM
Montreal
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close