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

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

Xs and Os, not PR

An NFL assistant for 20 years, Zimmer has spent the past 14 as a defensive coordinator for three teams. When he was in Dallas, the Cowboys had top-10 defenses whether Zimmer used his preferred 4-3 scheme or the 3-4 scheme that Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells wanted.

Before Zimmer arrived in Cincinnati, the Bengals had one top-10 defensive ranking in 18 seasons. Under Zimmer, the Bengals have had four in the past five seasons and reached the playoffs three straight years for the first time in franchise history.

Yet Zimmer was consistently passed over for head coaching jobs. One person close to him said it’s probably because Zimmer is too frank, too unpolished and that, “he’s made his mark as a football coach, not a smooth, slick CEO who walks in with his own PR firm.”

Zimmer told reporters in Cincinnati two weeks ago that he’s gotten better at interviewing since admittedly blowing one with the Rams years ago. He also said there were times when he knew immediately that the fit wasn’t right.

“Once, I had to fill out like a 200 [question] questionnaire on like, ‘If it’s sunny out, do you feel …’ ” Zimmer said. “I didn’t think that one was a real good fit.”

Straight shooting

Zimmer has pulled few, if any, verbal punches on the job. The most famous one was directed at Bobby Petrino, who hired Zimmer away from the Cowboys to the Falcons in 2007, only to quit 13 games into the season to accept the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas.

“When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people’s families and doesn’t have enough guts to finish out the year, I’m not a part of it,” Zimmer said then. “And you can put that in the Arkansas News Gazette. I don’t really give a [expletive]. … He’s a coward, he ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of families, kids, because he didn’t have enough [guts] to stay there and finish the job. And that’s the truth.”

Vikings players were fiercely loyal to Frazier, who also was regarded as an honest dealer with his players. With Zimmer, they’ll get the honesty with different packaging.

“He’s going to yell at you and try to get the best out of you,’’ said defensive end Brian Robison. “But if you deserve praise, he’s going to praise you up. I guess it’s just a different change of pace from coach Frazier.”



 

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