Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
The hiring of Mike Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, as Vikings coach has met the approval of some Vikings defensive players.
“It’s a good hire,” said defensive end Brian Robison. “I think he’s one of those guys that’s very passionate. Obviously he’s going to expect the best out of his players week-in, week-out, and I think it’s a great job. [General manager] Rick [Spielman] and them did their homework as far as interviewing a bunch of guys and came up with what best suits our organization.”
The intense Zimmer will be a change from Leslie Frazier, who was usually calm and collected.
“We’ve got the guys in the locker room to handle any type of coach they throw at us. I think we got a lot of mentally tough guys that, if you look at our season last year, things weren’t going the way they needed to be. Guys stayed in and fought hard, so I think we have guys that can pretty much handle anything in that locker room.”
There is a thought that Zimmer will switch to a 3-4 based defense. Here's what Robison had to say about that:
"We’re not sure what type of defense he’s going to run because of the different backgrounds he’s had over the years, but it’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of things we do under a new scheme, or even the same scheme. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but one thing we do know is that we’ve got a new head coach and we’ve got to rally behind him and get some Ws back here.
"I would love to do a hybrid type of defense. Maybe throw in some 3-4 plays, some 4-3 plays. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. Bottom line is if he decides we’re going to do a 3-4, I’m open to being a 3-4 outside linebacker. We stay with the 4-3, I’m totally fine with that too. I’m confident in my athletic ability to do anything at this point."
Robison talked to defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who played under Zimmer when Zimmer was a Cowboys assistant.
"Bottom line was that he said he’s a guy that’s obviously going to kind of be a hard guy on you," Robison said. "He’s going to yell at you and trying to get the best out of you but at the same time if you deserve praise, he’s going to praise you up. It’s just a different change of pace I guess from Coach Frazier."
Other Vikings reaction:
Safety Jamarca Sanford: “I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. I heard he’s a passionate coach, a player coach, a man of respect. That’s what you want out of a head coach.
“I like the way he communicates with the players on the sidelines, he’ll get in your face and he’s aggressive. I love that as a defensive player. That’s what every defensive player wants.
“You see the things he did in Cincinnati. They were playing great defense out there. That’s one aspect we’re looking to correct. That’s the last thing you want to be, almost dead last in the league in defense.”
Center John Sullivan tweeted: “Very excited to play for coach Zimmer and to see the staff that he puts together. #skolvikings”
Defensive end Everson Griffen, who will be a free agent, said: “Seems like the Bengals went far this year in the playoffs, and he called good plays on defense. Haven’t heard too much about him, but I can tell you that the way the Bengals play defense, the way they attack the ball and some of the things I’ve heard from guys around the league on his mentality, his style and aggression, it seems like a good fit for the Minnesota Vikings.”
Kicker Blair Walsh tweeted: "Congrats Coach Zimmer. Welcome to the Vikings!"
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been hired to coach the Vikings.
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Coaching candidate: Darrell Bevell
Contact: Interviewed with the Vikings last weekend; cannot speak with team again until Seahawks eliminated or after the Super Bowl
Head coaching experience: None
NFL coaching experience: 13 seasons
2000-05 – Offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach for the Packers
2006-2010 – Offensive coordinator for the Vikings
2011-present – Offensive coordinator for the Seahawks
Ever heard of this guy? Bevell has been one of the hot coordinators this year seeking a head coaching position. He knocked out two interviews last week, including one with the Vikings, and has drawn interest from the Redskins, Lions and Titans.
The Yuma, Ariz. native spent five seasons with the Vikings as offensive coordinator under head coach Brad Childress. He wasn’t retained once the organization fired Childress and hired Leslie Frazier, but Bevell received the same position in Seattle in 2011. It turned out to be a pretty nice career move for him.
Bevell has helped with the development of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in his two NFL seasons. Like the case in Minnesota however, the Seahawks offense ranked in the top five in rushing over the last two seasons (third last season with 161.2 ypg; fourth this season with 136.8 ypg). The Seahawks won their first NFC West division title this season with Bevell as the offensive coordinator.
Bevell was a four-year starter at the University of Wisconsin after starting at Northern Arizona and taking a two-year Mormon mission trip to Cleveland, Ohio in 1990-91. The Badgers went 10-1-1 during Bevell’s sophomore season to claim a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1962. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes during his collegiate career.
Here's a story the Star Tribune did on Bevell in 2010.
The Vikings are beginning interviews for their coaching vacancy this weekend. They are starting with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and will also interview offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said the Vikings will interview Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Phoenix on Tuesday. Presumably, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman will interview Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Phoenix early next week, too.
The Vikings also can interview coaches whose teams play in Wild Card games this weekend. That could include Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
A number of Vikings players have taken to twitter to voice support for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer regarding the allegations from Chris Kluwe. Kicker Blair Walsh issued a statement to reporters.
Here is his statement:
I have been a member of the Minnesota Vikings for 2 years. I want to start off by saying I have the utmost respect for Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier and Mike Priefer. All three, are good men.
I have had countless conversations and interactions with Coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character. His professionalism in the workplace is exemplary, and I firmly believe that my teammates would whole-heartedly agree. The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for.
As we all know, in the NFL you must perform at the highest level and meet the performance expectations of your coaches, management, and ownership. If these expectations, based upon past performance AND future potential for excellence, are not met, your NFL career with that team, is over. I believe this was the case with Chris, and it is unfair to think that his release was anything other than football related.
In my time here at Minnesota, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have exemplified true leadership. Contrary to Chris’ statements, they have promoted a workplace environment that was conducive for success. At no time did I ever feel suppressed or that I could not be myself.
I firmly stand behind Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and Mike Priefer.
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