In Rare Interview, Mike Zimmer Talks Studying Analytics, The 2023 MVP, and Jumping Back into the NFL

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Ah, Tom Pelissero. The man never fails to deliver, at least when it comes to getting the inside scoop for the Minnesota Vikings.

Recently, the analyst for The NFL Network did an interview with Mike Zimmer. Unlike Rick Spielman, Zimmer has kept a low profile since being fired after the 2021 season, so the conversation was certainly a notable one.

Mike Zimmer Pops up
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Kevin O’Connell has a way with words, but Zimmer doesn’t do too bad, either (especially when he’s in a good mood). The defensive coach has always been charming when he wants to be, and his interview is simply one more example of that reality.

Minnesota’s head coach from 2014-21 ventures into a myriad of different topics before culminating in him discussing how he’s looking to get back into the NFL.

Mike Zimmer Talks Analytics, MVP, and NFL Return

With a wry smile, Zimmer does a nice job of navigating the various questions from Pelissero.

Kicking things off is the description of his property in Kentucky and how he’s still studying the game: “I built a little office building that I go over there. I watch tape and study analytics and all of the different things that you kind of do, so just stay on top of the game.”

More specifically, Zimmer describes his emphasis on studying specific situations in football: 3rd and 4th down, defending in the red zone, and so on. A major part of his studying also involves reflecting on his eight seasons as a head coach, both the positive and the negative.

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Pelissero steers the conversation into the MVP chatter. Zimmer, for whatever it’s worth, thinks that Lamar Jackson is the one who is most deserving. More broadly, Zimmer praises the Ravens for their toughness and mentions Christian McCaffrey as a contender in the MVP race before ultimately settling on Jackson.

Maybe the most fascinating part of the conversation is when things get brought around to why Zimmer wants back into coaching.

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“I love to teach, I love to coach,” Zimmer explains.

He goes on to reflect how he wants to teach players about the game itself and that it’s in his “blood” since his dad was a high school coach. And, of course, there’s the fulfillment that comes from “the challenge of trying to make an organization better, and try to get them to where they need to go.”

People forget, but Mike Zimmer has long been recognized as a defensive mastermind in football circles. Yes, the final couple seasons in Minnesota were tough, but a large part of those struggles coincided with a serious decline in the level of talent that was available to him. The defensive architect and play caller wasn’t without blame, but he also wasn’t 100% responsible for those struggles.

At his best, Zimmer is among the best defensive coaches in football. His 2017 derense was nothing short of spectacular. Can he get back to that level?

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Seeing him jump directly into a head coach position would be surprising. After all, things did end poorly, so some owners may want to see what he can do before offering the top job. Plus, hiring an older, defensive coach would certainly go against the trend. More likely, perhaps, would be a defensive coordinator opening. In that scenario, Zimmer could show that he still has his fastball as he marries his sophisticated coverages with a robust arsenal of blitzes.

Oh, and convincing a team that he’ll be able to maintain offensive coordinator continuity will be a major part of his sale’s pitch.

Other topics that come up in the interview are his opinion of the Lions (he coached Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn), what his thoughts are on Deion Sanders as a coach in Colorado, and trying to last long enough to see Aaron Rodgers out of the NFC North.

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K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.