Even veteran Vikings players felt the need to try to impress the new coach.
Matt Cassel has been around the NFL block a few times in his 10 seasons as a quarterback. Not much surprises him anymore, and yet he found himself unable to sleep the night before the Vikings minicamp this week.
“I was excited, jittery,” he said.
Chad Greenway felt those same butterflies. The veteran linebacker compared it to being a rookie or college freshman again.
“It was straight-up nerves,” he said.
Captain Munnerlyn arrived in town as a key offseason acquisition who’s supposed to help fix a shipwrecked defense, and even he felt a weird uneasiness.
“With a new coach, it’s a clean slate for everybody,” he said. “That means every position is open. Except for the running back position.”
Good call. We’ll go out on a limb and suggest that Adrian Peterson probably didn’t need to impress the new coaching staff in order to keep his job. But everyone else convened at Winter Park this week with an overarching sense of anxiety not normally evident at a routine offseason workout.
Imagine your first day with a new boss, one who’s known for his no-nonsense personality and brutal honesty. And salty language.
“You’re on edge and trying to make a good first impression,” Greenway said. “You know the draft is coming in a week. They’ll probably make some decisions based off of this camp.”
If Mike Zimmer’s first on-field introduction made players nervous and uncomfortable, that’s a good thing. This organization had become too lethargic under the previous regime. The atmosphere at Winter Park became stale as losses piled up last season.
Change can be refreshing that way. A new direction can reset the focus, create some positive energy and perhaps motivate anyone who treats his roster spot with a scholarship mentality.
Every coaching change in every sport generates initial platitudes about how a new attitude and higher expectations will produce better results. We heard those same things from Vikings players this week. It’s best not to get sucked into that trap without seeing some actual evidence.
Zimmer’s coaching style is dramatically different from Leslie Frazier’s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one way is better than the other. But what’s indisputable is that this change has brought new accountability to the equation and forces each player to establish his own equity and trust with Zimmer’s staff.
“It’s almost like everybody is a new guy,” safety Harrison Smith said.
First impressions are tricky, but Zimmer’s reputation as a straight-shooter hits the mark. Asked an innocuous question about his open-door policy, Zimmer’s answer included this gem, “I’m not afraid of confrontation.” Then he quoted Pat Riley.
“Discipline is not a nasty word,” he said.
Two general observations resonated more than Zimmer’s bluntness. The confidence among the players in this staff’s competency is unmistakable, and Zimmer intends to take a hands-on approach in fixing his defense.
Frazier’s undoing rested largely on his choice of coordinators (in addition to his antiquated defensive scheme and willy-nilly mismanagement of the quarterback position). Alan Williams was overmatched, and Bill Musgrave’s offense often became more predictable than a low-budget horror film. Players lost confidence in both the plan and message.
It’s a safe bet that players won’t grumble about Zimmer’s aggressiveness on defense, and the size of Norv Turner’s playcard won’t become a punch line.
Veteran receiver Greg Jennings admitted the complexity of Turner’s offense makes his head spin. Peterson compared practices this week to “performing heart surgery without having a license.” Both were meant as compliments.
“What he says you can pretty much stamp it in concrete,” Jennings said.
Anyone remember players suggesting that of Musgrave? Or Williams?
Zimmer has ceded the offense to Turner, but it’s clear that the rookie head coach won’t just stand back and observe in silence, particularly with his defense. In minicamp workouts, he jumped into drills and barked at players about improper footwork or technique or whatever mistake caught his eye.
He’s more hands-on than a masseuse.
“You want to see a head coach coaching,” defensive end Brian Robison said.
Ultimately, Zimmer’s success will hinge on the organization’s ability to upgrade its talent — especially on defense — and solve a never-ending quarterback dilemma. And the onus falls squarely on the players, too. They can no longer blame the Tampa 2 for inept defense.
The players got their first glimpse of their new reality this week. The unknowns created some anxiety and put them on edge. That’s a good starting point.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org
|Cleveland||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|St. Louis||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|Miami||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Washington||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Dallas||11/23/14 7:30 PM|
|NY Jets||11/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Baltimore||11/24/14 7:30 PM|
|Chicago||43||2nd Qtr 1:07|
|Anaheim||2||2nd Prd :16|
|Carolina||1||2nd Prd 19:23|
|Florida||1||2nd Prd 16:16|
|Coll of Charleston||57||FINAL|
|VU of Lynchburg||51||FINAL|
|Palm Beach Atlantic||85||FINAL|
|William & Mary||100|
|Bob Jones Univ||41||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||61||FINAL|
|Fresno State||33||2nd Half 10:26|
|Pacific Union||41||2nd Half 9:03|
|Denver||49||2nd Half 7:44|
|San Diego St||22|
|Nicholls||17||1st Half 5:48|
|(12) Kansas State||26||FINAL|
|Arkansas State||14||3rd Qtr|
|Texas-El Paso||11/21/14 7:00 PM|
|Air Force||11/21/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|San Jose St||11/21/14 8:30 PM|
|Char Southern||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|South Alabama||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Rutgers||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(10) Michigan State|
|Minnesota||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Northwestern||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(18) Marshall||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Kansas||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Indiana||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Penn State||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|(14) Eastern Ky||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|TX-San Antonio||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|SMU||11/22/14 11:00 AM|
|Virginia Tech||11/22/14 11:30 AM|
|Washington St||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State|
|Louisiana Tech||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|Western Mich||11/22/14 12:00 PM|
|New Mexico||11/22/14 12:30 PM|
|(22) Colorado State|
|Eastern Mich||11/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||11/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Tulsa||11/22/14 2:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|FIU||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(8) Ole Miss||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisville||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Maryland||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Syracuse||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Boston College||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Georgia State||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Tulane||11/22/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|Western Carolina||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|ULM||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|So Florida||11/22/14 3:00 PM|
|Colorado||11/22/14 3:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Samford||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Miami-Florida||11/22/14 6:00 PM|
|Vanderbilt||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|(4) Miss State|
|(19) Missouri||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|Oklahoma State||11/22/14 6:30 PM|
|(24) USC||11/22/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/22/14 7:00 PM|
|Boise State||11/22/14 9:15 PM|
|Oregon State||11/22/14 9:30 PM|
|Fresno State||11/22/14 9:30 PM|
|UNLV||11/22/14 10:00 PM|
|Ohio U||11/25/14 6:00 PM|
|LSU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(5) TCU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Montreal||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||11/23/14 3:30 PM|
|San Jose St||80||FINAL|
|St Thomas (TX)||49||FINAL|
|(2) South Carolina||99|
|Fla Gulf Coast||69||FINAL|
|(17) West Virginia||61||FINAL|
|Utah Valley U||61||FINAL|
|New Mexico St||58||2nd Half|
|South Dakota||72||2nd Half 5:33|
|Santa Clara||32||2nd Half 7:54|
|UC Santa Barbara||27|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm||X||10-6|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm||X||30-28|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm||X||30-12|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm||X||19-3|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon||X||34-6|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon||X||30-7|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon||X||20-9|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm||X||41-28|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm||X||42-10|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon||X||17-3|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon||X||17-16|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon||X||19-13 ot|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon||X||29-26|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon||X||21-13|
|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|