Zimmer bringing new attitude
“Only time will tell.”
It’s the favorite cliché for sports pundits and fans use during their assessments after the NFL Draft or when a team hires a new coach.
The Minnesota Vikings are currently in their honeymoon stage with freshly acquired Mike Zimmer as head coach, who leaves the Cincinnati Bengals as a highly successful defensive coordinator.
Zimmer’s hire is a little different than the Wilf’s last two of Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier, in that for the first time of any Viking decision, it seems everyone is on board.
When Childress was hired, there was instant criticism on his standoffish and somewhat arrogant behavior, while Frazier was too introverted for some fans after he was named Vikings head coach.
But after gauging the reaction of fans, media and Zimmer’s peers throughout the NFL, it’s all been positive.
He brings superior experience as a defensive guru, having led top-rated defenses for the Dallas Cowboys and Bengals.
The last three years, Zimmer guided the Bengals to a top seven unit in the NFL the last three years.
The coaching search was also very much different than the last two, when the Wilfs hired Childress after interviewing only him and giving the job to Frazier outright without interviewing another candidate.
This time around, Viking general manager interviewed seven candidates in eight days, with Zimmer being the only one earning two interviews.
On the second one, Zimmer was signed and delivered as Minnesota’s ninth head coach.
“Mike (Zimmer) stuck out with his passion, his football intelligence and his leadership ability,” Spielman said in the press conference Friday introducing Zimmer. “He is known to develop young talent and also taking veterans and having them play beyond their ability.”
A notable reclamation project Zimmer built in Cincinnati includes undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who fell out of the draft completely as a premier defender at Arizona State in 2012.
Burfict ended up as one of the NFL’s top tacklers with 171 in 2013, with 114 of those being solo.
Zimmer’s ability to coax the most out of players who have either been thrown on the garbage heap or out to prove themselves has helped him carve out top 10 defenses throughout his entire career.
Taking over a dismal Vikings’ defensive unit maybe his biggest challenge to date, but Zimmer already has one aspect going for him as he tries to resurrect that side of the ball.
“We have a good, young core of talent here,” Zimmer said Friday at his introductory press conference. “But we will fit our scheme to our players, we just want to be fundamentally sound, stop the run and hit the quarterback.”
Fitting the scheme to a teams’ players is a simple philosophy missed out by so many coaches, including Childress and Frazier.
Zimmer isn’t about being a certain schematic kind of coach. He is willingly to coach out of his comfort zone and not become “just” a 4-3 guy or a 3-4 guy.
In fact, he’s run both, with the latest being a 4-3 front in Cincinnati. But he also ran a 3-4 scheme under Bill Parcells in Dallas, and he ran it well.
The last two regimes didn’t go outside their comfort box. Instead Frazier forced the Tampa Two defense on his players, when he didn’t have the right cornerbacks in place to run it.
Both Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes’ strengthes were being press corners, not soft zone Tampa Two coverage players.
Cook was decimated on the outside this past year, with himself even admitting he had a “terrible” year.
The same went for Rhodes, who is strong and physical.
Zimmer, or so he says, will fit his scheme to his players’ strengths and be aggressive.
Another key stat Zimmer’s defense posted last year was it allowed no touchdowns in two-minute situations.
Meaning, if the Vikings could have done that, they would have had five extra wins.
The Bengals also ranked first in the NFL in holding offenses to three-and-out series, doing it 55 times and ranked second in the NFL with just 58 points allowed in the fourth quarter (stats provided by Mike Wobschall Vikings.com).
It’s a good sign all around that Zimmer will be providing the fire and intensity needed in a lethargic Viking team, as well as a hopeful attitude change is on its way, as well.
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