OfficeGate, Justin Jefferson, and the Former Coach

ESPN published an article this week about Justin Jefferson’s rise to power, and the generalized takeaway pertained to Mike Zimmer’s office.

Broadly, the piece describes Jefferson’s ascent in the NFL, personality, and prominence within the Vikings organization, a fascinating piece of journalism from Tim Keown.

But check any branch of social media on Thursday or Friday, and the perplexing, eyebrow-raising aspect of the publication refers to the former coach’s office — and its location. You see, Jefferson — a two-time Pro Bowler sniffing MVP votes in 2022 — evidently had no idea where the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings worked. As in, he physically didn’t know his coach’s office location until Kevin O’Connell took over.

The 2022 Vikings, According to All National Power Rankings: Week 8
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

Keown wrote, “During training camp, O’Connell invited Jefferson to his office for a conversation, which is how he learned that Justin Jefferson — top five receiver in the NFL, two-time Pro Bowler, most popular Viking by far — had not only never been to the head coach’s office but didn’t have any idea where it was.”

A defense-first and defense-always coach, Zimmer was known for exalting defensive operations at all costs, even leaving some to wonder “if he cared” about the offense.

Well, OfficeGate lays credence to the theory that Zimmer assuredly didn’t prioritize offense as much as defense — if his franchise player was clueless about his office’s whereabouts.

Finally, Mike Zimmer Has Surfaced.
Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In the grand scheme of Vikings football and lore, especially as the franchise is 9-2 through 12 weeks with a different skipper, nobody cares about the past. Yet, the office-location revelation is the latest in a series of factoids detailing Zimmer’s apparent out-of-touch style down the stretch of his Vikings career — or his genuine adherence to “old school football coach.”

In January, eight-year veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks commended change to the Vikings organizational structure, confirming a fear-based culture, “I think just having that voice, no matter how big your role is, is important, to listen up and take each other’s feelings into account. I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go.”

Before Kevin O’Connell was selected as the next head coach, right tackle Brian O’Neill called for more “collaboration” from the next skipper, offering this advice, “It can be as little as, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ in the hallway. We spend so much time together, and the season’s so long, that little personal things can make a huge difference.”

The Vikings listened, hiring a collaborator who motivates like this:

Cornerback Kris Boyd took the dialogue even further in June, speaking to Patrick Peterson on the All Things Covered podcast. Boyd sarcastically declared about the Vikings coaching staff, They would walk around with their assholes, like, tight.”

Boyd continued, “[They] would always be strict about everything. Like any time you messed up, it’s like the world ended.”

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and cornerback Kris Boyd. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Therefore, the masses will learn about OfficeGate because of ESPN’s media reach, but the Jefferson-Zimmer nugget is merely a continuation of information already litigated about the previous coach’s mojo.

Bill Parcells influenced Zimmer to the utmost, and most of the shocking stories to dribble out after Zimmer’s departure are quite Parcellsian. Parcells and Zimmer were hardnosed. O’Connell is not. Zimmer is the Vikings past; O’Connell is the present — and future.

So is Jefferson, who now knows where O’Connell sits in the building.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).