Mike Zimmer was sitting in his office on a hot August day when the discussion took a hard left — or perhaps a push right — toward kickers.
The interviewer asked a leading question that went something like, “So, kickers, how much do they drive you crazy?”
The Vikings coach laughed and said, “They drive me crazy.”
As well they should.
And, at that point, Zimmer didn’t realize that rookie Daniel Carlson — the highest-drafted kicker in team history as a fifth-rounder — would last only two games before a Lambeau Field implosion that would usher in Dan Bailey to finish out the season.
So, in summary, poor Zim went into Week 3 with his third full-time kicker in a four-game span going back to last year’s NFC Championship Game.
Now compare that to Bill Belichick’s experience with kickers. Vikings fans with heavy scar tissue might want to look away.
Belichick has had three full-time kickers.
In 425 games.
Over 24 seasons going back to 1991.
Matt Stover, Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski.
And get this.
The only time an injury forced Belichick to use part-time help, Shayne Graham stepped in off the street and made 14 of 14 field goals in nine games as the Patriots, of course, reached the playoffs in 2010.
So, yeah, the Patriots do pretty much have it all.
Best defensive coaching mind in NFL history? Check.
Best quarterback in NFL history? Sorry, Mr. Montana, but a reluctant check.
Best three-decade run of placekickers? Checkmate.
The last time the Patriots had a full-time kicker not named Vinatieri or Gostkowski was 1995. Matt Bahr was 39 and in the last of his 17 NFL seasons.
Belichick inherited Vinatieri when he replaced the fired Pete Carroll in 2000.
Things didn’t look so good through the first 18 games. Belichick and Drew Bledsoe were in the late stages of falling to 5-13 when the Jets’ Mo Lewis delivered the hit that cracked Bledsoe’s sternum, causing internal bleeding and jump-starting the Belichick & Brady dynasty that’s won five Super Bowls and will play in a ninth one next Sunday in Atlanta against the Rams.
Someday, when the 41-year-old Brady, the 46-year-old Vinatieri and the 66-year-old Belichick finally leave this game, they’ll all be reunited in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Vinatieri’s career took off during the 2001 postseason. He made the game-tying 45-yard field goal through the snow to tie the Raiders and send the conference semifinal to overtime. Then he won the game in overtime and, of course, beat the Rams with a 48-yarder as time expired in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Vinatieri was 33 with a 10-1 playoff record and three Super Bowl rings when Belichick allowed him to leave after the 2005 season.
No problem. Not for Belichick.
In the fourth round that year, he took a kicker from Memphis named Gostkowski. The kid was 22. Monday, he turns 35 and has served as Belichick’s kicker in 227 games, including five Super Bowls.
Eons ago, Belichick was 39 and had just won Super Bowl XXV as Giants defensive coordinator when he got the Browns head coaching job in 1991. One of his first moves was to sign Stover.
Stover was a 12th-round pick of the Giants in 1990. He spent the year on injured reserve and the next 82 games over five seasons handling every kick the Browns attempted before firing Belichick, skipping town to Baltimore and renaming themselves the Ravens.
Overall, there have been 2,019 field goal and point-after placekicks attempted by Belichick-coached teams in 24 seasons. Three players — Stover, Vinatieri and Gostkowski — have taken 97.4 percent (1,966) of them.
The rest have been handled by Graham (52) and receiver Wes Welker, who made his only point-after attempt back in 2010. Backup quarterback Doug Flutie also made a PAT off a drop kick — the league’s first since 1941 — in the 2005 season finale.
Today, Zimmer and the Vikings head into 2019 with more uncertainty at kicker. Bailey made only 75 percent of his field goal attempts and will become a free agent.
Meanwhile, in New England, there’s Belichick and the Patriots. In 19 seasons, they’ve had only one year in which their field goal percentage dipped below 76.9 percent.
They’ve also had seven seasons of 90 percent or better and 16 seasons of 80 percent or better.
Believe it or not, there are places where the kicker doesn’t drive anyone crazy.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org