There was intense fan-excitement surrounding the news of the Vikings hiring Mike Zimmer as the new head coach earlier this week. And I was definitely one of the big cheerleaders during the whole ordeal. While Mike Zimmer has always been high on my list of candidates, I've never been more excited about a coach as I was after watching his introductory press conference. If you haven't seen it, go watch it right now on vikings.com.
Here are my favorite highlights from his press conference:
Q: What is your mentality for player development as well as impacting the people they are off the field?
A: Well I think one of the things about being a coach number one you are a teacher. You are trying to teach them about techniques, you are trying to teach them about all the different aspects of the game of football. Not just offense or defense but what the other side of the ball is thinking. Part of that though is teaching them about life and trying to get them to become better citizens, to become better fathers, to become better spouses and all of those types of things. I just think that is all part of the role that you have and luckily I have had a lot of mentors with me and I have a lot of the players I have grown close to.
As a teacher myself, this was very refreshing to hear. The job of the head coach entails many things, but developing and teaching players is a major part of the job. His ability to turn around troubled players like Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict is admirable. I hope he can continue to do that with some of our players as well. And perhaps some of the more talented and athletic players on the roster who have underperformed and not met their potential will find their careers jump-started as a result of Mike Zimmer. At least, I'm expecting big things on the defensive side of the ball for sure (I'm thinking of guys like Josh Robinson, Audie Cole and Robert Blanton).
Q: What are the challenges that you face from going from coordinator to the face of a franchise, when honesty might not be the best policy in what you are trying to display?
A: I think honesty is always to the best policy. That is what players want. Players want to be coached. They want to be told what is right and what is wrong. I am doing a disservice to my players if I am not honest with them. I want people to be honest with me and I am sure you want people to be honest with you. So there is different ways to do it so I just think that that is the best way to be. I am going to try to do my very best to be as honest as I can, and sometimes they don’t like the answer but they respect the answer.
I absolutely loved this answer. I sure hope the days of "I've got to go and look at the tape" press conferences are over. While there will always be some form of non-answers and double-speak from every head coach, Mike Zimmer's honesty will be a breath of fresh air.
Q: A lot of coaches, Bill Parcells as one of them, came out unsolicited offering their praise and support of you. Is there a certain coach you look for guidance and try to fashion your head coaching style after?
A: I have several, but Bill obviously is a great Hall of Fame coach, and has always been a great mentor of mine. When I was in Dallas my office was right next door to his, and he would come in and say, "Mike, when you are a head coach write this down." It was like daily that he would tell me things like that. He called me after I accepted the job here and the first thing he said was, "Mike, get a pen, and write this down," and he had three things for me to write down that day. I am actually going to go down and see him about the first part of the process being a new head coach in a new program. But I have worked under Barry Switzer who was a Hall of Fame coach, Marvin Lewis who I was with for six years, Mike Price, and my father was a high school coach and is in three Hall of Fames, two for coaching, one for playing. I think you get molded in a lot of different ways, especially when you are growing up but hopefully I continue to learn as the process goes and hopefully some of the coaches that we hire learn from me someday.
This is the point in the press conference when it dawned on me that we might have just hired a very special head coach. Bill Parcels is one of the most respected NFL coaches in the league, and was just inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. And we're getting one of his best disciples. The anecdotes about "write this down" were excellent, and I can't think of a better mentor for a new head coach to have than Bill Parcells.
Q: You talk a lot of being a teacher and a guy who can fix players flaws, so accountability must be important; how do you expect players and coaches to gain or attain that accountability?
A: Players learn in so many different ways. But you are right; accountability is a big, big factor. Our players are going to be accountable here. They are going to be accountable to me and I am going to be accountable to ownership and the general manager and that is the first step. There is a great quote by Vince Lombardi that says, "Once you have their hearts, they will follow you anywhere." That is really what I want to do. I want to grab these players’ hearts and get them to follow me.
This is so refreshing to hear, and I loved his Lombardi quote, but it is asolutely true. Again, as a teacher myself, I find that I have to get my students to buy in and respect me and what it is I want to accomplish in my classes. This begins by establishing expectations, and then being consistent in how you hold students accountable to those expectations. Zimmer is absolutely right about that, and if I were a member of the Minnesota Vikings, I'd be already buying in right about now.
So, congratulations Mike Zimmer on being named head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. With your coaching tree pedigree and proven success in the NFL there is no reason to believe that he can't be the guy to take our Vikings back to the Super Bowl and win it all. It won't be easy, and it may not even happen within the next few years. But Zimmer has my respect and admiration already. I'm excited to see how the rest of this off-season plays out.