The two high-profile football coaches in town, unbeknown to the other, offered strikingly similar snapshots of the temperature around their teams within a span of a few hours Sunday.
“I told somebody after last week’s loss that it felt like we were 0-10, not 0-1,” Mike Zimmer said.
“I worry about our kids because our kids act like we’re 0-3,” Jerry Kill said.
The two coaches should grab a beer and commiserate a stressful week on the job.
Zimmer’s Vikings earned something Sunday that Kill’s Gophers desperately need right now: a therapeutic victory.
The Gophers won Saturday but felt worse coming out of the 10-7 victory over Kent State than they did before kickoff. Kill even admitted that he received phone calls from several players concerned they are letting him down.
They can look to their temporary TCF Bank Stadium roomies to see how a convincing win can change the tone, lighten the mood and do wonders for the collective psyche of a football team.
A 26-16 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday enabled the Vikings to breathe easier and move on from their Week 1 debacle at San Francisco.
“It builds confidence and builds a little swagger in the locker room,” Vikings veteran Captain Munnerlyn said.
Football lends itself to emotional extremes because of its once-a-week nature. Six days in between games allows plenty of time to reflect, dissect and rehash problem areas.
The Gophers and Vikings had plenty of those exposed in the past week, which created an interesting vibe around both teams.
Fans still are wearing shorts and T-shirts to games, a true sign the season remains in its infancy. And yet the urgency level catapulted to a point that, at least for the Vikings, cast Sunday’s game as potentially make-or-break.
In Week 2.
Zimmer and Kill have had their acumen tested in terms of how they handle adverse situations.
Zimmer noted that his team had a lot of “soul-searching to get done,” but he chose not to belabor his team’s Week 1 meltdown any longer than necessary, turning the focus almost immediately to Detroit.
Kill has declined to comment on his quarterback situation in two media sessions since Saturday’s game.
Kill’s exasperation with his offense — and perhaps the scrutiny of it — bubbled to the surface in an awkward postgame news conference that Kill should regret.
He seemed irritated by fair questions and, at one point, insulted his own boss, interim athletic director Beth Goetz, which was not a good look. Kill realized he made a mistake and apologized to Goetz afterward.
Another comment by Kill to beat reporters Sunday further revealed the uneasiness that exists with his team, specifically his offense.
“This is the strangest situation I’ve ever been in in coaching,” he said. “We’re 2-1, and people are beating the [snot] out of us. It’s unusual.”
Actually, that should be taken as a positive sign. Same as the frustration voiced with the Vikings last week.
It means fans care. It shows that people are emotionally invested and expect more of them.
That’s not a bad thing. No one caring enough to complain or criticize or ask questions about Adrian Peterson’s workload or Mitch Leidner’s accuracy is far worse.
Both teams began the season with increased expectations based on what they showed last season. The Vikings grew and improved despite tough obstacles in Zimmer’s first season. The Gophers played in their first New Year’s Day bowl game in forever.
The intense reaction over their early stumbles this season reflected that heightened interest and optimism.
One win won’t count more than others, but it can alter the narrative. We can reasonably assume that the utter mess the Vikings dumped on the season opener was more aberration than norm.
They didn’t look like impostors on Sunday. The mood in the locker room afterward felt like a giant exhale.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said.
The Gophers could use some of that, too. There’s only one sure way, though. The anxiety level will remain high until their offense shows signs of life.