Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense, football-first head coach. When Zimmer took over a sinking ship for the Vikings in 2014, he inherited a young team coming off a 5-10-1 record the previous year. Things changed quickly, as players bought into Zimmer’s mentality and rookies like Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr performed well in key moments.
Early Thursday morning, Zimmer addressed the media at the NFL Scouting Combine, elaborating on his debut 7-9 season and looking ahead to 2015.
Like most Zimmer press conferences, the answers were short, to-the-point, and singularly focused. Zimmer’s not a coach who’s going to dirty his hands with salary cap negotiations or widespread personnel moves — Star Tribune writer Matt Vensel sums it up perfectly in a tweet from Thursday morning:
Anyone who knows Zimmer knows he is a ball-buster but also a player's coach.
— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) February 19, 2015
Zimmer kicked off the press conference with a statement supporting the solidarity of the organization, echoing Rick Spielman’s comments from Wednesday afternoon:
“We’re united on things we’re looking for, the vision we have for this football team, and where we’re going in the future.”
The head coach spent little time on the Adrian Peterson situation, but touched on the star running back’s athleticism and rare ability. “You understand that if you get him back, he’s a special guy,” Zimmer said. “Not all guys can run like Adrian can — there’s a lot of different things you can do with him.”
Zimmer’s quote aligns with recent statements from the Vikings’ front office — the franchise wants Adrian Peterson back. It’s too early to make a prediction on Peterson’s future with the team, as his suspension won’t be lifted until April 15th. However, Lindsey Young took a deeper look at his contract situation yesterday and the team’s potential options.
Reporters also asked Zimmer about the team’s efforts to draft Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft, a draft that saw the Vikings trade into the first round and take the Louisville quarterback 32nd-overall.
“We worked so hard to find a quarterback,” Zimmer said. “Rick and all of the scouts put an unbelievable amount of effort into finding a quarterback. We were extremely lucky to find this guy.” Zimmer revealed that the Vikings tried multiple times to move up in the draft or trade to get Bridgewater, but were fortunate that he dropped to them at 32. “We would have kept trying at 40, it didn’t matter,” he said.
After starting 12 games in 2014, Bridgewater finished the season with a 6-6 record and won the Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award. “I sent him a text saying ‘Let’s go win a championship, unless you want to be a celebrity quarterback’,” Zimmer told reporters.
Matt Cassel opened the season as the team’s starter, but Zimmer revealed that Bridgewater was going to be the team’s quarterback moving forward. “I knew all along that he was going to be our guy,” he said. “I didn’t want to get him shell-shocked or hurt, but the kid is tough.”
He then talked about offensive weapons, specifically Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph. As many fans know, Patterson suffered through a so-called “sophomore slump” in 2014, catching 33 balls for 384 yards and 1 touchdown. After the season ended, Zimmer connected Patterson with a mentor, as reported by St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Brian Murphy:
— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) December 30, 2014
Zimmer shared Patterson’s progress with the media, noting that the team needs to manufacture more touches for the receiver. “Cordarrelle is a very talented young man who has been in a bunch of different systems,” Zimmer said. “Cordarrelle is doing a good job so far this offseason. We need to do a better job, but he needs to continue to do a better job as well.”
On Rudolph, Zimmer’s main concern was health, not talent. “Kyle is a big piece of this offense, he’s a great kid who loves to compete, is tough, and has great hands,” he said. “Kyle has a chance to be a great player, but he needs to stay healthy.” Zimmer also noted that he spoke to Rudolph recently, who told the head coach that he “feels great”.
Zimmer finished the press conference with comments on Greg Jennings and Sharrif Floyd, players he sees as valuable pieces moving forward.
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