Mike Zimmer turned to longtime friend and mentor Bill Parcells for advice in the immediate aftermath of losing starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater just days before the Vikings 2016 season.
Bridgewater went down with a non-contact injury early in Tuesday’s practice at Winter Park and was later diagnosed with a dislocated left knee, torn ACL and other structural damage.
Zimmer and Parcells spoke twice Tuesday, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported on The Monday Morning Quarterback, for a total of about 20 minutes. The first conversation was before Zimmer knew the diagnosis, but during the second conversation Zimmer knew Bridgewater’s season was likely over.
Parcells told the Vikings coach “There are situations that won’t allow you to succeed. I don’t think this is one of them.”
Parcells, the 75-year-old Hall of Fame coach with two Super Bowl titles, reminded Zimmer that no one would feel sorry for him, and later that afternoon Zimmer relayed the same message to the media.
Zimmer spent four seasons working under Parcells in Dallas during the early 2000s.
"I told him, ‘The first thing you need to know is this: Everyone in the organization, and that includes some of the players and the coaches, are going to think they have an excuse now,” Parcells told Zimmer. “Once the shock is over, probably 48 hours from now, they’re all gonna come to you and look at you and say, ‘What are you gonna do?’ Because you’re charged with winning games now, no matter what you have on your team. You need to figure out what works—what recipe works. And tomorrow morning, once the shock wears off, nobody’s gonna [care]. It’s his problem. He’s gotta figure out how to win now.”
Parcells used his own experience to help encourage Zimmer by reflecting on the 1990 season when quarterback Phil Simms broke his foot, but backup Jeff Hostetler took over and rallied the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title.
"I remember vividly hearing all the experts then say, ‘No one’s ever won the Super Bowl with such an unproven guy.’ I said to my players, ‘We are not losing because we’re playing Jeff Hostetler. I guarantee you that.’ ” Parcells said. "There were ways to win those games, and it was up to us to figure them out.
“[Zimmer] has a good running game. You know he can coach defense and they’ve got a good defense.”
Parcells is confident Zimmer will respond "Like he is, as a man: Resolute. Determined.”