For most of the offseason, there have been stories swirling around about the levels of toxicity the culture surrounding the Minnesota Vikings was immersed in at the end of Mike Zimmer’s tenure as head coach. A story that came out today, however, gives the impression that it might have been worse than even the most pessimistic of Vikings fans may have thought.
Over at Go Long, veteran NFL writer Tyler Dunne talks about how the culture of the team is changing under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, but the parts that everyone is talking about involve the Zimmer era, which came to an end back in January. Some of the most damning statements came from former NFL player Terence Newman, who was coached by Zimmer in Dallas, Cincinnati, and Minnesota) and even spent a year as part of Zimmer’s coaching staff. He paints a pretty grim picture of how things were going during his time in purple.
Cornerback Terence Newman knows countless players “dreaded going to work” those final years because all fun was drained out of the organization. “It became toxic,” Newman says. “It was a trickle effect. If players are dreading getting cussed out and shit like that, then it’s going to make it a long day for everybody.”
One of Zimmer’s former coordinators, unnamed in the story, got a little angrier about things, declaring that he expected immediate success from the 2022 Vikings because “Satan had left the building.” That’s. . .harsh.
Look, I don’t pretend to know anything about Mike Zimmer other than what I saw on the Vikings’ sidelines and in press conferences for eight seasons. I’ve never met him, never spoken to him, nothing like that. I know that when Zimmer first got to Minnesota after three-plus years of the Leslie Frazier era in Minnesota, everyone loved his take no B.S. attitude and his jousting with reporters and things of that nature. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you did.
As I’ve said in numerous forums before, I don’t think that Mike Zimmer is even a bad football coach. He’s probably still a pretty damn good one, to be honest. But he reached the same point with this franchise that Dennis Green reached during the 2001 season when the message just stopped hitting home. Green had a much higher level of success in purple than Zimmer did over the course of a decade, and if he stopped getting through to the players he was coaching, it can happen to damn near anyone.
Mike Zimmer was not a popular figure at the end of his time in Minnesota. Few coaches are. . .if they were popular, their eras probably wouldn’t end, right? But I’m interested to see exactly how much success the “culture change” in Minnesota leads to this season. There are experts that are expecting big things from this team, and if that materializes, perhaps “culture” is a thing that will be more highly thought of than it currently is.