When Adam Zimmer was named Vikings co-defensive coordinator earlier this year along with Andre Patterson, he said that it was one of the best moments in his 15-year NFL coaching career. But what was it like going into a job interview with his dad, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer?
“Well, I think it wasn’t really an interview, like formal interview type of thing, it was the body of work over the last seven years working with him,” Adam said of his tenure as Vikings linebackers coach, a position he will keep along with being co-defensive coordinator. “It was an adjustment at first working for him, but I think we have a good communication back and forth and understanding of how we like to do things. I think it was a pretty seamless transition.”
The Zimmer family has a long history of coaching. Mike Zimmer’s father, Bill Zimmer, coached high school football at Lockport Township High School in Illinois for 35 years.
Mike has been in coaching since 1979, when he was 23 years old and worked as a defensive assistant coach at Missouri for Warren Powers.
“[My dad] really never said he wanted me to be a coach, that was just something I wanted to do, seeing my grandpa do it and growing up with going to games and being on the sideline with my dad,” Adam said. “I ended up playing at Trinity University in San Antonio, and I knew I wanted to coach.
“Sean Payton had just gotten the [coaching] job with the Saints and he knew I wanted to coach and he offered me an entry-level, quality control-type position, and that is where I started. I was there for four years and kind of worked my way up, and so keep climbing the ladder.”
Zimmer, 36, said that growing up he was always around football, and even though his dad would try to not talk football when he was with his family, it was all Adam wanted to talk about.
“He was at the office a lot, and when I really spent the most time with him was when I’d go to the office with him,” Adam said. “I’d go into the office with him on a Saturday or spend three or four weeks or a couple weeks at [Cowboys] training camp with him in Austin or California, where they do training camp now. That’s where I spent the most time with him.
“When he was with us, we went to dinner and hung out, but it was always a lot of talk about football because that’s what I wanted to know and that’s what I was interested in.”
Does he ever think about becoming a head coach like his father? “That has always been the goal. I have always kept a little book of things I would do or things that I would want to do as a head coach,” Zimmer said. “Each step in the process is a step towards that. But in actuality I do want to be a head coach. I’m not in any hurry to be a head coach. I know how much stress it is and how much scrutiny you get, but that’s definitely in the long-term goals.”
Way back with Patterson
One reason Mike Zimmer had to feel comfortable promoting both his son and Patterson is the incredible relationship those two have.
“I have known Andre — he worked with my dad at Weber State, worked with my dad at Washington State, you know he was in Dallas, so we go way back,” Adam said. “We have a great relationship. I remember holding his son [Andre Patterson Jr.], who is now coaching for us, when he was a baby. That’s how far we go back.
“I think Andre and I are really on the same page with just about everything. I’d go into his office, even before this happened, for the last six years I’ve gone into his office and just talked for a long time. I think him and I, in this relationship, is really good for us.”
When it comes to sharing responsibilities, Adam Zimmer said he and Patterson don’t view it as split roles even though he thinks each coach brings unique strengths.
“I think it’s going to be that everything we do is together,” he said. “I think the biggest thing we want to do is collaborate on everything we’re doing, have great communication and go from there.
“Obviously I think Andre is a little more polished with the run game and I’m probably a little more polished with the pass game, so we’ll divvy some of that up. But I think overall we’re all going to be in it together and do it as a group effort, not just like split up and you’re doing this and I’m doing that.”
One thing Adam Zimmer is proud of is the work he has done with Vikings linebackers, who have become some of the best in the game.
Pro Football Focus recently named Eric Kendricks the NFL’s best defensive player for 2019. Zimmer said his improvement has been tremendous.
“I think he was the top in the league in pass defense, and that’s coming from him understanding the route concepts, getting more comfortable in the system,” Zimmer said. “He has gotten better each and every year and so he did a great job. Anthony Barr did a great job on running backs and tight ends this year. Eric Wilson stepped in and did a really nice job for us, as well. I’m really pleased with his progress as he came in as a rookie free agent.”
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