In this day and age, media sessions that unearth new information are unfortunately getting fewer and farther between all the time. So when a truly enlightening event is held, like Mike Zimmer’s annual film session, it’s a breath of fresh air in an industry where sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get any semblance of transparency.
In an off-the-record film session – meaning we can’t go into great detail — Zimmer gave the local media a crash course in the Vikings’ defensive schematics and shed further light on his philosophies as a coach. Dumbing nothing down to layman’s terms, Zimmer’s willingness to give scribes a look behind his curtain reveals the complexity of the game of football and the knowledge gap between the average player and the average fan (as well as the average reporter).
Radio host Colin Cowherd once controversially argued that while a baseball writer could discuss strategy with any MLB manager, a football writer could never do the same with an NFL coach’s gameplan. This rings true after spending close to an hour in Zimmer’s world; a world where losing focus for five seconds means you’ve likely missed your coverage instructions and – like a second grader in math class, you’re terrified that the teacher is about to call on you – as Zimmer did several times with reporters.
Zimmer likes to ask questions. Lots of questions. Especially if the projection system in the meeting room falters or the remote control stops working. In meetings, he’ll ask offensive players about the defense and vice versa. Of great import to Zimmer is having a team where each player speaks the same terminology, since many clubs use different jargon. It’s not enough to simply know your own assignment, but the assignment of the man on either side of you – not to mention the guys next to them.
The third-year head coach is a perfectionist, and that zealousness is on display in the film room as he breaks down the Vikings’ flaws on plays that ultimately had good results for the purple; the ends not always justifying the means. As clichéd as it sounds, each man has a responsibility on each play. The Vikings often fell back on the phrase ‘Do your job’ last year when asked what it would take to win a game, which seems like a fair assessment based on Zimmer’s emphasis on team football.
The head coach is certainly doing his own job well in the classroom, where his candidness has made him one of the most well-respected coaches in the league.
Zimmer held an on-the-record press conference after the film session and touched on some other topics with reporters.
On Danielle Hunter
The Vikings drafted the LSU defensive end when he was 20 years old and a massive project. But thanks to defensive line coach Andre Patterson and the coachability of Hunter, Minnesota now has a legitimate edge rushing threat to spell Brian Robison. “Number one, it always helps to be a smart guy, which Danielle is,” said Zimmer. “Is he willing to work? Will he listen to coaching? Usually like Hunter is a sponge. He wants to sit in there and try to learn everything.”
Hunter entered the league raw but learned quickly and recorded six sacks as a rookie, including 3.5 sacks in his final four games. Standing at 6-foot-6 with arms nearly three feet long, Hunter always had the physical tools, it was just a matter of sharpening his technique. “With him, the first thing was getting off the ball, threatening the offensive tackle,” Zimmer said. “Next thing you start working on the hands. … We do a lot of that. We work technique all the time.”
On sideline technology
Currently, the NFL permits coaches on the sideline to use Microsoft Surface tablets (not to be confused with iPads) to look at still photos of plays within a game, but that bylaw may soon evolve into the realm of sideline video. The NFL’s competition committee tabled a proposal this offseason to pass the bylaw into effect, but it will soon be reevaluated. The league also experimented with sideline video last preseason. While the change seems inevitable, Zimmer is against the new technology that could make things easier on coaches. “I’m not for it,” said Zimmer.
On Adrian Peterson’s Super Bowl assertion
In a recent interview, running back Adrian Peterson told Peter King of The MMQB that the Vikings could “win everything” this season. It’s not the first time Peterson has made a similarly bold statement, and while his claim may have merit as Minnesota enters a promising season, Zimmer would rather let his team’s play do the talking. “I’d prefer if each guy would just go do our business and just keep working and not talk about it,” the coach said, “but I understand those things.”