Tuesday featured a lot of good news on the Minnesota Vikings injury front, including the return of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but head coach Mike Zimmer’s media dealings continue to dominate conversations this week.
Yesterday, a post-practice pow wow with the press generated some more buzz, with 1500 ESPN staple Judd Zulgad attempting to do the opposite of a Ben Leber sideline interview. Zulgad, who has been vocal about Zimmer’s antics in recent days, pressed Zimmer fairly hard for an explanation as to why he won’t reveal whether or not Adrian Peterson will play against San Diego on Sunday.
The press conference started with some pleasantries regarding Sid Hartman and Rhett Ellison, but things got a little tense a few minutes later.
“I told you guys when I first got here I would try to be as transparent and honest as I can, and I will be, but there are certain things I’m not going to tell you,” Zimmer told the media upon fielding his first question regarding Bridgewater.
Zimmer continued to address questions regarding his quarterbacks for a few moments before he was asked if he had made a decision on Peterson playing in the upcoming game.
“I have,” Zimmer answered before being pressed for what that answer is. “That’s one of those I’m going to not tell you.”
Zimmer smiled after the comment, and a few reporters chuckled in the background, but then, Zulgad asked Zimmer: “Why?”
“Why?” Zimmer repeated with a fading grin. “I don’t know, it’s not necessary. I mean why is it necessary?”
“It is a preseason game, though,” replied Zulgad. “There’s no competitive advantage if you tell us or don’t tell us. The Chargers aren’t going to care.”
“They’re not going to care?” Zimmer responded to Zulgad. “Call [Chargers head coach] Mike McCoy and ask if they are going to care. Just ask him. Call him. Ask him if he cares.”
Zulgad, unable to let it go, stated to Zimmer that there is “no competitive advantage whatsoever for Mike McCoy.”
And that is the point where I think Zulgad might have missed the bigger picture. Does Mike Zimmer care about the final score of this preseason game? Probably not much at all.
But does that mean there is no competitive advantage at play here? Whether it ever comes to fruition or not, I feel like Zulgad is being a little naive by pretending that NFL franchises aren’t trying to get a competitive edge at every opportunity with the Super Bowl as the end goal.
It doesn’t matter. So there’s no reason not to tell us who is going to play other than being a control freak. https://t.co/IHtQGtuOMC
— Judd Zulgad (@1500ESPNJudd) August 23, 2016
Isn’t calling an NFL head coach a control freak kinda like calling coffee caffeinated, Judd? https://t.co/iYEXlwZVOU
— Vikings Territory (@vikingterritory) August 23, 2016
When I first watched and listened to this press conference on Tuesday, an article written by one of Zulgad’s former colleagues sprung to my mind.
This article, written by Kevin Seifert over four years ago, has stuck with me for quite some time.
In the days prior to the NFL Draft, Rick Spielman had made public statements meant to dispel the notion that the Vikings were 100% dead set on drafting USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil. He kept working names like Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne into conversations with the press.
Critics taking a similar stance that Zulgad is taking with Zimmer today, saw the comments as pointless and unnecessary. After all, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III certain to go in the first two slots, Spielman’s Vikings were practically on the clock.
In a pre-Draft press conference, one reporter told Spielman he would be crazy not to take Kalil.
“Well, maybe I am,” Spielman responded with plenty of good reason for wanting other front office’s to get that message.
As ridiculous, unnecessary and see-through as it may have seemed at the time, and even with Seifert accurately predicting Spielman’s intentions, the deception worked out in Minnesota’s favor.
The Browns thought Spielman was just too crazy and unpredictable, so they decided to give up three additional draft picks (a fourth, fifth, and seventh) to move up one spot and select Trent Richardson third overall. The Vikings, of course, were still able to get the guy they coveted all along fourth overall.
If Spielman has demonstrated any particular draft approach in his first year as general manager, it’s to create the public impression that he’s just crazy enough to do anything. -Kevin Seifert, 2012
I’ve always given credit, privately and publicly, to Seifert for so simply dissecting that situation and finding the inevitable solution before the events played out; all while the rest of us were squabbling about what Spielman should or could do come Draft Day.
That is why I think Zulgad is incorrect in stating there is no competitive edge gained by Zimmer playing it coy about Peterson playing in the preseason.
It may seem like minutia in this moment, but there is almost certainly something at play here by design, and could end up meaning something in the future.
I mean, if Mike Zimmer is crazy enough to lie about a sore shoulder and cloak his intentions with his star running back when it is a meaningless scrimmage, then imagine the level of distrust when the games actually matter.
Is the local media a conduit of truth in Minneapolis? Why are the beat writers so suspicious of Coach Zimmer? Is he crazy enough to deceive us all during the regular season?
If opponents are asking these three questions from September to January, then Mike Zimmer has just used Judd Zulgad to gain a competitive advantage.