Mike Zimmer pointed at himself during his season-ending news conference Tuesday when recapping the Vikings’ collapsed 2016 campaign.
Zimmer, entering his fourth offseason as head coach, said he’ll take time to evaluate everything, from the coaching staff and his game management down to the practice schedules.
The 60-year-old football lifer said he’ll also call other coaches around the league to pick their brains, something he’s never been afraid to do.
“I just know that ultimately I’m responsible for getting these players where they need to go,” Zimmer said. “That’s what leadership is — is taking a group of people somewhere they haven’t been before. And I haven’t done that yet.”
Zimmer described his road ahead as “soul searching” after the 8-8 Vikings came closer to the seven-win team his first season than the 11-win division champions last year. He didn’t lean on attrition as an excuse for losing eight of the last 11 games, most of which came after offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s resignation and season-ending injuries to tackles Matt Kalil, Andre Smith and Jake Long.
“Regardless of all the things that happen — injuries, all that other stuff — they’re just excuses,” Zimmer said. “When we started out and we lost a couple games, I wasn’t able to get them over the hump. That falls on top of me, and I have to figure out the reasons why and how, if it ever happens again, I can get it redirected quicker.”
Summoning a common practice from his days as a coordinator, Zimmer said he’ll reach out to select coaches around the game to “visit with them about the way they do things. Hopefully they’ll talk to me about it, some may not.” The aim is to find threads on how certain teams remain consistent throughout a season.
“Maybe I should have changed some of the schedules,” Zimmer said. “Maybe I should have the players more fresh. Maybe I should have pushed them harder. There’s just so many things that I have to look at.”
‘One hour less’
His own injury also wasn’t an offered excuse. Zimmer said four eye surgeries to repair a retina did not prevent him from stopping the Vikings’ slide. Zimmer, who will need another operation to remove an oil bubble used to keep his retina in place, missed the first game of his NFL coaching career Dec. 1, when he needed an emergency operation that had been planned for the morning after the game. The Vikings narrowly lost to the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys under interim coach Mike Priefer.
“I may have worked one hour less than I normally work,” Zimmer said. “After those surgeries, that’d have nothing to do with it. There were a couple of times where I didn’t meet with the defense and watch some film, maybe a 30-minute session because I wasn’t supposed to look up.”
Paton to interview
Assistant general manager George Paton is scheduled to interview Friday with the 49ers about their GM opening, a source confirmed.
Paton has spent the past decade with the Vikings.The duties of Paton, who worked with General Manager Rick Spielman in Chicago and Miami before joining him in Minnesota in 2006, include helping Spielman sort through free agency and stack the team’s draft board.
Paton has turned down opportunities to interview with other teams in recent years because of his close relationship with Spielman and belief that the Vikings were building something special.
The 49ers on Monday fired GM Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly after a 2-14 season. They hold the No. 2 pick in April’s draft.
Floyd a question mark
Zimmer may have said more in what he didn’t say regarding defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who played 25 snaps this season before requiring arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in September. The former first-round draft pick has missed 20 games to injury since taking over the starting job three years ago.
“Sharrif is under contract and I know [Spielman] is in charge with all that,” Zimmer said. “So, we’ll see where it goes.”
Floyd would count $6.76 million against the salary cap next season under a fifth-year option that isn’t guaranteed until March.
Kicker, punter added
The Vikings signed kicker Marshall Koehn, punter Taylor Symmank and tackle Reid Fragel to reserve/future contracts. All three worked out for the Vikings last year.
Koehn, a former Iowa Hawkeye, was one of six kickers considered when the team replaced Blair Walsh with Kai Forbath in November.
Staff writer Matt Vensel contributed to this report.