We’ll preface this blog post with an asterisk to acknowledge that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his hand-picked head coach, Mike Zimmer, are still in that wonderful Kumbaya happy place that all general managers and hand-picked head coaches frolic during their NFL honeymoon periods.
Sometimes, these things last. Often times, they don’t. Typically, if there’s a bonafide franchise quarterback to smooth out the rough edges, trophies are won and good times between coach and GM are extended (See: Green Bay/Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson/Aaron Rodgers).
The Vikings went 7-9 in Year 1 under Spielman and Zimmer. No one was happy to finish third in the NFC North and miss the playoffs. But there is justifiable optimism in the Vikings’ future based on a promising rookie quarterback that Spielman procured in a draft day trade and a solid coaching staff adept at tutoring quarterbacks and improving defensive production.
Wednesday, Spielman was asked to evaluate Zimmer’s first season. He gushed.
“I thought he did a great job,” Spielman said. “We sit there and I sit there with him on Monday, ask what he was thinking here and those things. I think even he is going to grow next year because this was his first opportunity to be a head coach and there’s no question about his leadership and the respect he has from those guys in the locker room.
“He’s as honest as it gets. He’ll tell you, if he screws up: ‘What do you want me to do? I screwed up.’ I think that helps make us such a good team, because we’re both similar. He talked a little bit during training camp, I put together all these game management things and we went through them. But it’s just like players, they learn by going through those live situations and you have to make those split-second decisions.
“He may have admitted he’d have done some things differently and he’ll continue to grow in that phase. But overall, I thought it was very good for a first-year head coach. Very good.”
The entire football side of the Vikings’ organization spent three days evaluating the roster last week. Spielman said he could see improvement in the working relationship between the coaches and scouting department because of their one year of experience together.
“Just heading into the second year now there’s such a clearer understanding about the direction we need to go as far as what specifically each position trait is required to be effective in this scheme,” Spielman said. “I don’t think 7-9 anyone here is satisfied with that record. We’re excited about the progress, but 7-9, no one is satisfied. I know our expecations are very high between myself and coach Zimmer, where we should be, and we’ll continue to work together to get to that point.”
Spielman was asked if there was anything unexpected with Zimmer.
“No, he’s really a good guy,” Spielman said. “It’s everything I hoped for and envisioned when we went through the process. I think the biggest thing is he probably, out of any new coach, had to deal with more adversity than anyone. How he handled that adversity, to me, he should be highly recognized for it. Because it was never, no matter what hit us, injuries or what else, there was never an excuse. ‘All right, it’s our job as coaches to figure it out.’ And we got positive results out of that.”