Quote Of The Week

Quote of the Week: Vikings Discover the Virtue of the Bulletin Board

Mike Zimmer jumped the gun when he gave his team “Beat Green Bay” shirts before their Week 11 matchup with the rival Packers. Although they’d won five straight games and led the NFC North at that point of the season, many wondered — “Are the Vikings ready to challenge Green Bay for the division title?”.

The answer was a resounding “no.” Minnesota was blown out at home, losing 30-13 to a Packers team that had struggled offensively all year. They played more like the team that was embarrassed Week 1 than the team that dominated opponents on the ground and with an up-and-coming defense. And after losing two of their three games following that dreary November night, they looked more “pretender” than “contender.”

In three short weeks, though, Mike Zimmer has learned the value of the proverbial bulletin board. It’s an age-old metaphor in sports; coaches pin negative quotes up in the locker room or play sound bites to motivate their players before games. Listen to what the media and fans are saying, and use that as fuel to your fire when you’re on the field. Some players — especially veterans — don’t always respond to that method, but for a young team in Minnesota, Zimmer’s tactics seem to be working.

They entered last week as heavy underdogs against a red-hot Arizona Cardinals team, but found a way to not only keep the game close, but competitive. If not for Teddy Bridgewater’s fumble on the last offensive snap, the Vikings could have easily sent the game into overtime. Their surprising performance came without three of their top defensive players and in the face of public doubt. Instead of buying t-shirts or feeding the swirling hype, Zimmer put the onus on his players to believe in themselves despite the negative noise:

[quote_box_center]”Really, when teams believe – everybody in the world thought we were going to get killed by Arizona and we went out there and we played and fought – and sometimes you have to have something that happens within your football team, that you can believe. You can believe these young guys are going to go in there and play and play good. You can believe no matter how much we’re up against the wall that we can continue to fight. That was kind of my message all week long. This is the team we have to be, this is who we are, we have to prepare with the same focus and I was on their rear ends pretty hard this week.”[/quote_box_center]

The Vikings continue to find inspiration in those who doubt or question their ability to win important games. After yesterday’s convincing 38-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, Zimmer took to the locker room to congratulate his team, delivering a strong message much like the one Bill Parcells did in 2003. Like his mentor and friend, Zimmer didn’t shy away from calling out the media’s assertion that the Vikings can’t “win when it matters” (here’s looking at you, Rodney Harrison):

“Everybody gets a game ball because they can’t ever call you a loser again. They can never call you that. Because we’re winners from now on.”

Now, Minnesota has its sites set on the NFC North title. They’re almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, as noted by FiveThirtyEight. The sports statistic website gives the Vikings better than a 99 percent chance to make it into the playoffs. With a win against the New York Giants next week, they’re in. But Zimmer’s focus is beating the Packers and winning the division, just as it was nearly five weeks ago.

In today’s world, where information and commentary are available with the simple press of a button, it’s easy to listen to the outside noise. “Is Teddy Bridgewater a franchise quarterback?”. “Injuries will decimate this defense.”. “Can they win when Adrian Peterson isn’t producing?”.

Teddy Bridgewater throws four touchdowns and runs for another. Check. The defense sacks Jay Cutler five times and forces two turnovers. Check. Jerick McKinnon catches four passes for 78 yards in place of an injured Peterson. Check. They answered the call and did so in the face of mounting pessimism. They’re not winners yet — Minnesota still needs a Lombardi Trophy — but the Vikings are well on their way to shedding their title as “losers.” That starts with Zimmer, who knows just how to motivate his team.

Let’s hope in two weeks, he leaves the Green Bay shirts at home; the Vikings don’t need them this time around.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. Speaking of quotes, Austin, do you think there is any connection between Teddy having monster back-to-back games following the post-game where a Seahawk D-lineman said Teddy looked “scared”? Not saying Teddy needed motivation to play well, but maybe that was a needle that hit a nerve. Or maybe not.

    1. I noticed that they’ve improved their offense since the Seahawks debacle. It may be that Teddy is different but I think it’s obvious that Norv is calling a different game. Maybe Zim and Norv had a sit down and agreed that the formula wasn’t working. Norv is still running on first down too much but they seem to have a different passing scheme since the Hawks game. I think Teddy plays a little better when AP isn’t in there so much. When he twisted his ankle Teddy played great. You still want to get AP in the game but maybe not ALL the time. It keeps the defenses guessing..

    2. I think he probably took that to heart, especially since him and Bruce Irvin are friends. Teddy’s a quiet guy, but deep down, I believe he’s a fiery competitor. Just look at him at Louisville — he was far and away that team’s leader. And I think with AD out against the Bears, he took the Vikings by the reigns and led them to a win.

    1. I don’t think they’re losers, but I’d say they aren’t considered “winners” in the traditional sense. Much like Peyton Manning is a prolific regular season quarterback with a losing record in the playoffs, the Vikings are a moderately successful franchise with an 0-4 record in the Super Bowl. I think Zimmer’s got them on the right track to contend for years, but outside of my mind and Minnesota, people don’t consider the Vikings a top-tier team (like the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks, Packers, etc.)

      1. I think your point of how the Vikings are considered is accurate, Austin, but it’s an interesting list of teams you provide. Being one of the oldest, or the oldest, participant here, I can tell you of the days when all of those teams were gutterdogs in the league. While the 0-4 SB record sickens me like you can’t even imagine, I think you’ll find the Vikings have actually had more playoff appearances than any of those teams you list since 1961 (yes, even the Packers – I looked that up once, and I am fairly sure its true). And I think we have been in about 8 NFC title games (average once every 7 years) – bet there aren’t a lot of franchises ahead of us on that list. It is on that basis I would suggest to “people” that the Vikings are indeed, a winning franchise. But yes, due to the Super Bowl test, that may not be what we are considered. I can report, however, that we use to kick sand in the face of a lot of people some years, similar to what the Patriots do these days.

        And then there is “America’s team.” Don’t get me started.

        1. I cannot support the statement with actual data or a date to the stat that I am going to mention, yet I am certain that I heard/read this… It may have been in the late 80’s, perhaps in the 90’s. But I believe that as of one time in the time frame I mentioned MN was the “winning-est” franchise in the NFL since the NFL-AFL merger. I think the win % was slightly above 70%. I think that I also recall that the second was the Raiders (or maybe Raiders #1 and the Vikes #2). Perhaps someone can help me? I hate to bring up something positive like that without actual data to back up the statement, makes a person sound like a “homer”. I have been watching the Vikes since I was in elementary school, I vaguely remember watching the SB against the Chiefs with my dad, but I would have been only 7 then, very fuzzy memory. A great team from that point all the way through the 70’s. A down year or two starting with the “Les Steckel” year, then tough again through the late 80’s. Through the 90’s they always seemed to have a good running game no matter who the RB, even Scotty Graham was averaging over 4 yards per carry, which brings me to always having a very good offensive line through that era, along with some very good WR’s starting with Anthony Carter. Always a good defense as well. Some lean years in the early 2000’s and then for the last three. They have made the play offs on a fairly regular basis throughout my lifetime is what I am trying to say.
          PS Dave Osborn (who will always be my favorite Viking, my first professional athlete hero growing up) made my millennium in 72 when I was in fifth grade. I grew up in Valley City ND. I believe that it was Dave’s brother in law that taught with my dad. Dad was a football and basketball coach as well as a teacher there. Dave was planning to visit his sister and agreed to show a football follies film to the HS football players. When my dad heard of this, he told Dave’s sister that I was Dave’s biggest fan. When she told Dave of this he offered to spend a part of his day with me. Dave picked me up at school in the morning, took me to his sister’s house to have lunch with them, and then took me to the HS and sat next to me, with his arm on my shoulder, while we watched the film. None of my friends would believe me until the photos were developed! A class act from a selfless and great man and one of the toughest RB’s to ever play the game. I will treasure the photos and the memory until I die. If Adrian wants to truly learn to stop fumbling, he should sit down with Dave for a bit for advice.

            1. Thanks Cal, I was beyond words of course. He threw a football around with me for an hour or so while at his family’s house too. All that for just one kid.

        2. Just to make sure I am providing accurate claims, but not to prove any particular point other than this franchise owes no apologies, here is the factual info pertaining to my comments above regarding playoff appearances:

          Vikings have been in 9 conference championship games during their 54 years. They are 4-5 in those games.

          Playoff appearances since 1961:
          Cowboys 31
          VIKINGS 27
          Steelers 27
          Colts 25
          Dolphins 22 (established 1966)
          Packers 24
          49ers 24
          Patriots 22
          Broncos 21
          Raiders 21
          Rams 21
          Eagles 20
          Seahawks 14 (established 1976)
          Giants 18
          Chiefs 17
          Redskins 17
          Chargers 17
          Bengals 13 (established in 1968)
          Bears 15
          Jets 14

          Also remember these numbers are skewed between expansion and established teams. In 1961, many of these teams (Packers, Bears, Steelers, Eagles, Giants, etc.) had already been in existence for many years, while others like the Vikes had to endure expansion years before even thinking about being a playoff team.

          The Packers went to the playoffs ONCE over a 20-year span from 1973 – 1992, with that one appearance occurring during the strike-shortened 1982 season with replacement players. During that time they put up 12 losing-record seasons. Once the Vikings first made the playoffs in 1968, we have never had more than a four year span of no playoff appearances, and have posted a grand total of just 12 losing seasons.

    2. people will always hang the loser label on the vikes because of the four SB losses, even though we don’t think of them as such. we need to change that and i think we’re on the way to doing so