Hartman: Vikings' Zimmer maintains close ties to Parcells

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2014 - 12:26 AM

The new coach of the Vikings received some tips from his mentor before the start of camp.

The Wilf brothers Zygi and Mark, owners of the Vikings, have been longtime fans of Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. In fact, there were rumors a few years back that the Vikings were interested in hiring Parcells as coach.

So the Wilfs should be happy that Parcells and new coach Mike Zimmer remain close after he worked for Parcells for four years as his defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, a couple of days ago Parcells sent Zimmer a text message saying to trust his own eyes; to make sure that everyone knows he is the head coach; and to be fair but firm.

“I guess that was it,” Zimmer said. “I learned a lot about football from him, a lot about life. He really taught me a lot of things about being a head coach. Every day [in Dallas] he would walk into my office and say, ‘Write this down. When you’re a head coach remember this.’ I really respect him.”

How nice is it to have a coach like Parcells as a confidant?

“He’s a great adviser,” Zimmer said. “I’ve talked to him several times over the course since I’ve got the job, and obviously prior. Any time I have a question, I’ll call him.”

Zimmer also had another great coaching mentor in his father, Bill.

“My father was a coach for 35 years, he’s in three Hall of Fames,” Zimmer said. “He was the sixth-winningest high school coach in Illinois when he retired, so I have always been impressed with the way he worked and the way he was able to adapt his team to whatever personnel he had.”

Asked if he always wanted to coach, Zimmer replied with a laugh: “No, I always wanted to be a player. I knew I always wanted to be in sports, and it’s just sometimes it goes that way.”

Better than expected

Zimmer was asked for his impression of the Vikings personnel and organization compared to what he expected the day he was hired.

“It is actually much better than what I anticipated it would be,” he said. “The players really like to work. The management, ownership, everybody here, it’s a first-class organization. They want to win, but they want to do things the right way, also. It has been very impressive being able to work with Rick Spielman and the knowledge he has in the draft and running the organization and our vision for the football team together.”

Among the players in camp are the 10 draft picks the Vikings selected in May.

“Quite a few of these young guys have [impressed me],” Zimmer said. “One of our corners that we drafted in the seventh round, Jabari Price, has shown some good things this spring. So I’m anxious to see what he’s going to look like when we get down to training camp. [running back] Jerick McKinnon has done a very nice job. Obviously [Teddy] Bridgewater has had a good spring. Actually quite a few of them. We’re excited about getting going. [defensive tackle]Shamar Stephen has done a really nice job, as well.

Is Matt Cassel the No. 1 quarterback?

“Going into camp he is the No. 1 guy,” Zimmer said. “But we want to have competition and figure out who is the best quarterback for this team at this particular time. Really, what we’re trying to do is figure that out in the next few weeks, and then we’ll make a decision and we’ll go with it.”

Zimmer’s background is in defense, so the hope for many fans is that he improves a unit that was second-to-last in the NFL last year.

“Has to improve a lot, yes,” he said. “Obviously I wasn’t here then, but statistically they didn’t do well in a lot of areas, so that will be a big main focus for us here to get the defense turned around and start going the right way. But I do like the players we have, and we’ll continue to build on that.”

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