Wednesday was quite a day for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. He woke up at Vikings headquarters after spending the night there — after working a full day following surgery for a torn retina. He met with Norv Turner, who tendered his resignation as offensive coordinator. He followed with his usual 11 a.m. briefing with the media — and then had to do another interview on KFAN with Dan Barreiro.
After that, the Vikings practiced and tried to move on with interim OC Pat Shurmur.
But let’s back up a moment to that Barreiro interview. (Begins around the 15:40 mark). Like many one-on-one interviews, it offered a few more insights than we were able to easily glean from Zimmer’s large group session Wednesday. Of particular interest were three nuggets — two about Turner and one about the Bears game.
*When asked by reporters Wednesday if there was a difference of opinion about the offense between Zimmer and Turner, Zimmer said there was not. “I would say that since Norv has been here, I've given him almost 100 percent, total free will in everything that they've done offensively. Obviously, I'll come in and make suggestions, but there really has never been a time I have demanded anything from there,” Zimmer said. He added a one-word answer of “no” when asked again later about a difference in offensive philosophy.
On the radio, Zimmer reiterated that he never told Turner he needed to do something or call a certain play. But there was also this, which perhaps falls into the “suggestions” category he referenced in the large group:
“I don't particularly think I had a different idea of where the offense was going,” Zimmer said on KFAN. “I did feel like we needed to protect the quarterback better than what we are and ways we should be doing that. That's about it.”
That’s not a difference in philosophy per se, but when a lot of Turner’s offense is predicated on deeper drops and vertical routes that make linemen hold their blocks longer, that offense can be at odds with protecting the QB.
Barreiro asked if helping the offensive line was part of that. Zimmer agreed, noting the 11 sacks and numerous hits on Sam Bradford in the past two weeks. “I want to try to make sure we protect the quarterback, honestly,” Zimmer said.
Turner obviously didn’t want to get Bradford hit, either. But Shurmur’s offense, with quicker throws, is better designed to protect the quarterback and mask a shaky line.
*Zimmer, who was vocal in the past about Bobby Petrino quitting his job with the Falcons mid-year, was asked if he was angry at Turner for quitting in the middle of the season.
He said he was not angry — different situations, different guys — but also offered this about his relationship with Turner: “I felt like we had developed a very good relationship over time. Maybe he didn't feel that way, but I certainly did.”
*When the conversation shifted to the Bears game, Barreiro asked why Zimmer didn’t seem as upset about the loss as he was after the Eagles game. He explained that he thought the Bears played well and that sometimes you just get beat. “It's a long season and you're going to have ups and downs. Even when I won a Super Bowl in Dallas there were so many ups and downs,” Zimmer said.
But he also offered this: “I didn't feel like me going in and tearing everyone's heads off was the right thing to do. Plus there may have been some other factors.”
On the first part, perhaps he was sensing from the mood of the room that he needed a different gear. If so, kudos to Zimmer. On the second part, it leaves you wanting more. Barreiro, as curious as they come (and still a terrific interviewer), pressed Zimmer on those “other factors.” The coach said he “shouldn’t have said it” and added, “I’ll keep those to myself.”
Speculating here would be next to impossible, but we can probably rule out his eye problems since he and Barreiro had covered that topic at length already. We’ll have to leave that mystery unsolved in a week of intrigue.