When they were with Dallas together, Mike Zimmer’s office was next door to Bill Parcells’. Head coach and assistant. Mentor and mentee. And it was a day-to-day process.
“So he’d come in and say, ‘Mike, [for] when you’re a head coach, write this down,’ ” Zimmer said Friday during a news conference at Winter Park introducing him as Vikings coach.
“It was like, daily, he’d tell me to write things down,” Zimmer continued. “He called me after I accepted the job here, and the first thing he said was, ‘Mike, get a pen! Write this down!’ He had three things for me to write down that day.”
Zimmer comes to the Vikings with a wealth of experience and a rather long list of influences. Friday, he also listed the likes of Barry Switzer, who won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys with Zimmer as an assistant; Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, his boss the past six years; and Mike Price, the coach at Washington State when Zimmer was an assistant there. Zimmer mentioned his father, Bill.
But atop the list was Parcells, who publicly endorsed Zimmer for the Vikings job.
“Bill, obviously, is a great, Hall of Fame coach,” Zimmer said. “He’s been a great mentor of mine.”
And he will continue in that role.
Zimmer said he plans on going to visit Parcells, where he will get advice on being a new head coach with a new team.
“I was with him for four years,” Zimmer said. “He was able to come in every day and talk to me. It seemed like every day he would come in and talk to me about what was going on. I felt like at the time he was always grooming me for this day.
“He kind of took me under his wing and mentored me, I guess. He lets his coaches coach and do their deal, but he tries to make everybody better that’s around him.”
We’ve got to ask. What three things did Parcells ask you to write down?
“I can’t tell you,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer’s three children were in attendance at the news conference, and agreed he is a bit of a “redneck.”
“He drives a truck, loves to hunt,” said Adam Zimmer. “I think that goes back to his roots. He used to go hunting all the time in Illinois.”
His daughters were wearing purple, and Corri Zimmer said, “It was actually funny last night my dad took us out, and we were buying all this Vikings stuff. He said, ‘You guys switch teams so fast.’ We’re just excited. We’re his biggest fans wherever he is.”
Zimmer’s wife, Vikki, died unexpectedly of natural causes in October 2009. Mike Zimmer was asked what she would have thought about his being hired in Minnesota. “She would be real proud today,” he said, as his children looked on.
Assembling a staff
Various reports have Zimmer already well on his way toward assembling his coaching staff. But he had no update on the process Friday. He said the staff would be introduced once it was fully assembled. And that included any speculation on whether he would retain any current assistants.
“What I’m going to do is evaluate all the coaches that are here,” he said. “We’re going to continue to evaluate all the coaches on the outside and we’re going to make a decision on all those things collectively. I haven’t made any decision on coaches so far.”
That said, here were some ideas gleaned from his discussion on the process:
• Zimmer said he is looking for teachers, and not necessarily clones of his own personal style: “I want guys that will convey the message that I’m trying to convey. They don’t all have to be like me.”
• Just because he’s a defensive coach, he doesn’t plan on staying away from the offensive side, no matter who is hired as offensive coordinator.
• Obviously Zimmer will be heavily involved in the defense: “It’s always going to be part of my little baby because that’s kind of how I am,” he said. But he didn’t say whether he would actually call the defensive signals on game days. “If need be I will,” he said. “That’ll be a little bit of a transition and I’ll have to work through that.” Zimmer said how things go in preseason games will help determine whether he will call the defense.