Mike Zimmer has long been respected by NFL coaches. Now, after he led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a division championship, the national media are starting to catch on. Peter King’s The MMQB has named him one of the NFL’s 100 Most Influential People of 2015. Zimmer came in at #65 on the list, the 10th highest rated head coach.
Gary Grambling of The MMQB writes of Zimmer:
It took too long for someone to hire Zimmer as a head coach. Now he’s showing why he deserved the job. In his second season, he took the Vikings to an NFC North title, its first since 2009.
Even among Vikings fans—not generally an overly optimistic lot—it’s hard to find anything negative to say about Zimmer. In 2013, before Mike Zimmer took over, the Vikings were dead last in scoring defense. That improved to 11th in 2014, his first year at the helm, and 5th in 2015. By any metric, that’s meteoric improvement. The team’s regular season records have gone from 5-10 to 7-9 to 11-5 in that same span. There’s a general feeling he and Rick Spielman have the team moving in the right direction, and the Vikings’ leadership is in the upper echelon of the NFL. That isn’t something that could be said very often in the last two decades.
Two other Vikings also made the list. The highest was Adrian Peterson, at #30. Of Peterson, Grambling said:
At age 30 and coming off a full-year layoff (after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of recklessly assaulting his 4-year-old son), there was uncertainty surrounding Peterson. He responded with his third career rushing title, helping the Vikings to their first NFC title in six years.
Finally, Blair Walsh made the list at #80. Not surprising after the dramatic playoff miss. On Walsh:
It was a stunning miss on a freezing day. After drilling kicks from 22, 43 and 47 yards in subzero temperatures, the reliable Walsh pulled a 27-yarder wide left in the final seconds of a 10-9 wild-card loss to Seattle. Walsh will have an offseason to think about the kick. But hopefully he moves past it and remembers the important things: that he is handsome, and puppies are cute.