Much like Rick Spielman did on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings’ Head Coach Mike Zimmer got his opportunity to step up to the microphone in Indianapolis on Thursday. He, like many other NFL executives and coaches, have descended upon Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
As we pointed out earlier today, Zimmer’s style of answering questions and dispensing information is quite different from Spielman’s. By that, I mean that Zimmer actually answers the questions he’s asked. So, hopefully everyone will find Zimmer’s press conference more informative than they likely found Spielman’s.
So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at what Mike Zimmer had to say in Indianapolis earlier this morning. The transcript comes to us courtesy of NFL Draft Scout and Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
We got a lot of work to do. We have to improve in a lot of different areas. We’ve had good meetings so far and we’re excited and ready to get going.
Where are the Vikings at with the quarterbacks?
Actually, the process that we’re going through right now with Sam, Teddy and Case, we’re trying to determine exactly where these three guys are. Teddy is a guy that two years ago played fantastic. I thought he was a very ascending player and obviously had a terrible knee injury. Don’t get to see him play in real, live action in basically two years, so there’s the question with him. The question with Sam is two years ago he plays in 15 games, starts and plays well. This year, he plays in one game and gets hurt, so you go back and look at his track record. You go back with Case, he plays outstanding this year. You go back and you look at what he’s done in the past and where he’s at this year. Then, really what we have to try to do is figure out what is the best scenario for us and understanding that, trying to answer these questions on these three guys and try to go from there.
That’s what Rick and myself and Rob and how it affects the salary and how it affects the rest of our football team. We’ve won 40 games in the last four years because we’ve had a good football and I want to make sure that with our team that we continue to build and improve, continually improve on defense. They told me today we’re 30-4 when we’ve scored 21 points. It’s important that we don’t lose the defensive part of the game, we keep the game close. So all these things become a factor. After we get done here, we get done looking at some of these draftable guys, we’ll sit down and figure out the direction we’re going. But I feel very confident in really all three guys. I love all three of them. They’re great people. I love how they work. They understand how we do things there as a team and the way we go about our business. It’s important for myself and Rick and the organization that we pick the right guy that is going to help us to continue to move forward. If we don’t do that, then I’ll probably get fired.
How do you want the workload divided between Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray?
Dalvin is an unbelievable player. Dalvin’s a great player, and Dalvin will probably get the majority of the carries, but we have to be mindful of the fact that it’s a 16-game season, hopefully longer than that. He’s going to take an awful lot hits. So we have to not put him on a pitch count, but we have to be able to have him understand that this a long season and maybe get him out in certain situations. Dalvin is a three-down back, Latavius can do the same thing. But I think it’s good to have a change of pace with those guys.
Tough to resist reaching for the quarterback position?
It’s like a said a minute ago, the thing that I told Rick was, when we sat down in meetings, I said, ‘Look, we’ve won this many games and these many years because of this football.’ Because we’ve played really good on defense for the most part. This year obviously we played so much better on offense and were able to go further than what a lot of people thought we would, so it’s important that we continue to put the pieces in place on defense. What I don’t want to do is say, OK, this is the one thing – we’re going to do this and we’re going to take away from the rest of the things that have gotten us to this point. So that’s the other thing. Rob Brzezinski, our cap guy, does an outstanding job of saying, OK, if we do this, then we’re going to have to give up here. If we do this, then we’re going to have to do this. If we do this, we can add here or we can add there. I think all those things come into play.
How do you balance a guy who knows the system versus someone from the outside without knowing the offense?
I think no matter what position it is, when you’re talking about free agency or you’re talking about people in the draft, you would much rather have somebody that knows how you do things, the way that you go about your business, the way that we practice, the way that we conduct our meetings, the way that we are in the locker room, the culture that we’ve built as an organization. I think it’s always more important that you do those things first … for us, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve got an outstanding locker room. We’ve got great leadership, we’ve got great character in the locker room and I think it’s important that whoever we bring in, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency or whatever it is, we’re very mindful of the fact that we want our guys to fit in with the rest of the core guys that we have on this team.
What do you think about this year’s QB class in the draft?
Quite honestly, I haven’t studied them at all. We’ve been so busy with free agency and all the other things. I’m in the process now of looking at the offensive line. I’ll look at the defensive line next and then I’ll move onto probably corners, safeties and then get into the quarterbacks.
How confident are you in Sam Bradford’s health and play at all?
It’s the $64,000 question with all three of these guys, right? Can Sam stay healthy? Is Teddy what he was? Is Case the guy that he was last year or two years ago? So that’s really the $64,000 question with us. With Sam, I love Sam – I love all three of them – they’re all great people. Sam was skiing in Jackson Hole last week. He’s a tremendous athlete. I think he’ll stay healthy, but who knows? I have a crystal ball, but I don’t have it with me. But it didn’t tell me if he’s going to stay healthy.
What does Laquon Treadwell need to do to make the jump in Year 3?
That’s a good question. I think the big thing is Laquon needs to get out of his own way. He’s a guy that works extremely hard, probably doesn’t do things the right way all the time. We’ll be in training camp and he’ll run the stadium steps at night, which is not helping for practice the next day. But he thinks he’s trying to get better; he’s trying to get better. He’s just going about it the wrong way. He needs to get out of his own way and let this thing play out.
New faces around the NFC North change your preparation?
I’m just glad the Vikings don’t have a new coach.
Change your studying on the division rivals?
Oh, yeah. Obviously Chicago and Detroit, they’re going to change their players obviously. I think Chicago’s defense is going to stay the same. Detroit we don’t really know. Their offense should stay the same. And Green Bay, I think offensively they’re going to stay pretty the same. We’ll just have to go back on the track record of the coordinators and where they are. Hopefully we’ll play them later on in the season and we’ll have more tape on them and adjust.
What did you think of Teddy’s recovery?
I love Teddy. I’ve said that before. This kid is a great competitor. He’s got the heart of a lion, a champion. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to be ready. I wouldn’t have dressed the guy if I didn’t think he was ready during the season. If we would have had to have him go in, I was comfortable in playing him. Obviously he got in a couple snaps in the one game, but I’m hopeful for Teddy, No. 1, that he has an outstanding career. He’s earned it; he’s deserved it. Hopefully it’s with me, but if not I wish him the best of luck. I’ll give him a hug and hope for the best for him.
How will this offense look with John DeFilippo?
I think he’s going to have an input on the quarterbacks. I feel like each of us are experts in certain area. Obviously he’s an expert in the quarterback area, but we’ll sit down collectively as a group and we’ll sit and we’ll say, OK, here’s the order that we want to go and how we want to go about our business. He’ll obviously have a big say, but it will be a collective group effort. He doesn’t know Teddy as well or Sam as well, some of our guys. He knows Sam, but Case he doesn’t know as well. Our input on those two guys will be important. As far as the offense moving forward, I felt like this was our best offense in the four years we’ve been here and I didn’t want to come in and change the terminology, make the players learn all the different things. So we’ll try to keep the terminology the same. Obviously, there’s going to be certain plays we’ll run no matter who the quarterback is. But once we decide on the quarterback, we’re going to throw certain plays out, add certain plays to the ability of what these players can do.
On the quarterbacks
I would like to keep all three of them. These kids have busted their rear ends for however number of years – some of them four, some of them two, some of them one. They know how we do things now and I think it’s important for the culture of this franchise and the culture of this organization. But, again, it’s going to come down to financial things, financial for them, and maybe some of them don’t get to free agency. We’ve still got some time. I know there’s a lot of rumors and a lot of different things going on out there, but don’t believe everything you hear – unless it’s for me.
Can the defense still carry the momentum?
I think anytime you’re with players for a long number of time that they can understand the things that you’re trying to say and the communication between one another. All the different things, we can make adjustments so much quicker now than in my first year. I think that’s really important. I think we can get a lot better. I’ve got a list of like seven things on offense, seven things on defense and things on special teams that I feel like in order for us to make the next jump we have to improve on. We did that a year ago and quite honestly the things we talked about a year ago we improved quite a bit. So if we can continue to do those things and keep understanding that we haven’t arrived, we’ve still got a lot of work to do – if we can continue improve in some of these areas hopefully we can take the next step.
How do you determine if Case is a franchise quarterback?
The question is no different than is Sam Bradford going to stay healthy? Is Teddy Bridgewater going to be able to [return] to where he was? Is Case Keenum the quarterback he was last year or who he was three years ago? You’ve got to go on your gut, you’ve got to go on what you see, you’ve got to go on his heart. Case has big heart. He’s a great competitor. He studies his rear end off. He works an unbelievable amount of hours. The question is exactly what you’re asking: Is he this guy? All three of our guys have questions. There’s no doubt about it, and it’s our job to do the very best we possibly can to figure out who is the right guy, the right fit. The one thing about Rick and I, we sit in there and we can argue a little bit and say what’s right and what’s wrong. But when we walk out of there, we’re together. The organization is together. Whether we decide on it’s Case or it’s Teddy or it’s Sam, we’re going to walk out of there and we’re going to say this is what is it and we’re going to go.
What caught your eye with Case last year?
I think maybe the Tampa Bay game. It might have been the second game that he started. He played outstanding. I gave him the game ball after the game. He went in the first game and probably didn’t play as well against Pittsburgh as he would have liked. The next week he came in there and made the correct throws and took care of the ball – all the things we preach as a football team he did that day. I think that started it. I think the rest of the team felt comfortable with him.
What convinced you on DeFilippo?
There’s a lot of different things. Obviously I sat down with him and I didn’t know him. Things I heard from other people about him, like the job he did in Cleveland when he was there was maybe not the best situation in the world. I think a lot of those things. He had done this for a while. People were talking about what a great quarterback coach he is. Obviously that part of your football team is maybe the most important thing. I think it was just a combination of things.
He ran the QB room in Philly for interviews; will he do that for you?
I don’t know that we have primary guys. We try to do everything collectively and figure it out that way.