It’s ironic that the Metrodome’s Teflon roof was permanently deflated just as Vikings fans were starting to get pumped up. The hiring of Mike Zimmer as head coach was a much needed shot of espresso for a franchise that has been lulled to sleep by the Leslie Frazier era of predictability and lack of emotion.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has been taking a lot of heat lately from both the media and fans for drafting Christian Ponder, failing to sign Antoine Winfield, and giving Josh Freeman $3 million to ride the bench. He knew that his legacy (and future employment) was going to be determined by this head coach choice, so he took the safe route. Spielman took a good, long look at the man he had just fired, and chose the candidate who was the exact opposite.
Mike Zimmer is an aggressive risk taker who has earned a reputation for building overachieving defenses. He is a strict disciplinarian who has not been afraid to confront players on the sidelines after a missed assignment or boneheaded penalty. Despite that fact, he has earned overwhelming respect and admiration from his past players and fellow coaches. Zimmer has proven that he is willing and able to adapt to changing situations, whether dictated by injuries, personnel, or game conditions.
He also swears enough to make Jerry Burns blush. Some people have “swear jars” on their office desks. Zimmer is going to need an “F-Bomb Barrel.” Zimmer was smiling, well dressed, and on his best behavior during his initial press conference. He did not curse, scream, spit, or throw the microphone at Sid Hartman. Reportedly he was taught not to swear in front of women, and his two daughters never heard him curse…until they caught an episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Apparently, Zimmer didn’t realize that millions of women watched the program, because he melted the screen with his constant (and creative) profanity. His daughters were quickly banned from watching the program, but not before a few new words were added to their vocabulary.
Most Vikings fans probably don’t care about Zimmer’s language, as long as he swears to improve the team’s defense and hire talented assistant coaches. Zimmer won a Super Bowl as a defensive coach with the 1995 Cowboys and transformed the Bengals from a 27th ranked defense in 2007 to a top ten defense over the last three years. He has proven not to get boxed in to a particular defensive scheme and is equally competent directing a 4-3 or 3-4 front. His defenses are known for being aggressive, creative, and hard-nosed. This means that the day of the Tampa II “bend but don’t break” defense is officially over.
As for Zimmer’s choice of assistant coaches, the verdict is still out. I’m not a very big Norv Turner fan, but he does have one thing going for him. His name is not Bill Musgrave. Turner has an extensive NFL pedigree and a reputation for being able to bring the most out of star running backs (Emmitt Smith and LaDanian Tomlinson) and big wide receivers (Michael Irvin and Josh Gordon). If he is given a competent quarterback to work with, he should be able to improve the Minnesota offense with his play action, vertical passing game.
So, after a 5-10-1 season and with a long football drought ahead of us before the Vikings head to Mankato for training camp, there’s reason for optimism. Rick Spielman has brought positive change to the Minnesota coaching staff. Now all he has to do is use free agency and the draft to shore up our defense and get a franchise quarterback. If that happens, then Vikings fans will be the ones swearing…. that he is the best general manager in the game.