The Mike Zimmer recipe for football success includes an offense that emphasizes the run and pairs nicely with a stingy defense. If you somehow haven’t picked up on that little nuance by now, you haven’t been paying attention. He doesn’t hide it. No reading between the lines is required to break his code. It’s a pretty simple formula — one that many call “old school” and his sanctimonious detractors mock as being out of touch with the pass-happy approach nearly every other NFL team strives to employ.
This is the 21st century, you know. Teams are supposed to spread receivers all over the field and throw the ball willy-nilly with no regard for human life. You heard me: willy-nilly.
Run the ball? That’s so 1993. Related: What’s a fullback?
The anti-Zimmer crowd shook their heads in unison when the Minnesota Vikings extended his contract a few weeks ago. Three additional years of this, huh? Hasn’t the league passed him by? By the time his contract is up, the league’s coaches will have lapped him! This is crazy!
But what if I told you Zimmer might be crazy like the proverbial fox? It’s a concept I’ve been considering for a while now. It’s been percolating for a few years, ping-ponging between what’s left of my cerebral cortex and frontal lobe. What if I told you Zim was actually ahead of his time, applying string theory to play 10-dimensional chess while others play tiddlywinks?
Maybe he’s zigging while other teams are zagging – or as the Vikings owners prefer to call it, “zyging” while other are zagging.
What if the best way to counter-punch an approach is to do something totally opposite? If everyone is emphasizing the pass, maybe running the ball is the way to go. Defenses face a cavalcade of pass-first opponents week after week. Establishing the run against them knocks them off stride. Mitigate the passing games of all these pass-happy copycats with a strong pass rush and stingy coverage. And then run it down their throats to beat them up physically.
Mind blown, right?
Okay, if you don’t smell what I’m cooking, maybe you’ll believe Chiefs All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. The man they call “Honey Badger” owns a formidable football IQ – one that will lead him directly into coaching if he so chooses once his playing days are over. The guy knows football.
I felt vindicated and emboldened in my notions about Zimmer when Mathieu took to the Twitter machine back in April to suggest the following:
Quick reminder: Patrick Mahomes is Mathieu’s teammate (hence the “elite QB exception”).
“Just sit back and watch football come full circle,” he said, channeling his inner Rust Cohle – you know, the iconic Matthew McConaughey character from season one of HBO’s “True Detective.”
Ol’ Rustin summed up his philosophy in the famous quote, “Time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.”
Now, you might raise an eyebrow at some of the crazy notions about which I opine and no one would blame you, but who among us can question the Honey Badger and Rust Cohle when they’re so obviously on the same page? Especially in these challenging times.
That’s what I thought.
What’s more, the only three teams that ran the ball more often than the Vikings in 2019 were the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. They went a combined 38-10 last season, and one of them made the Super Bowl. The Ravens and 49ers also had two of the best defenses in the league and figure to again in 2020. The Seahawks are endeavoring to quickly regain their once-stout defensive form – the one that, when paired with a power running game, propelled them to a Super Bowl title not so long ago. Witness the recent Jamal Adams trade.
Maybe John Harbaugh, Kyle Shanahan and Pete Carroll are onto something, too. They seem to be drinking from the same tap as Zimmer.
Don’t look now, but Matt LaFleur is clearly peeking across the border and copying off of Zimmer’s notes. LaFleur would rather draft H-backs than wide receivers. And in his first season at the helm of the Packers, he demonstrated an affinity for the power running game. All Aaron Rodgers can do now is put on a brave face.
So, I ask you, football fans: Do you still want your favorite squad to throw the ball with reckless abandon? Everybody’s doing it… whether they have Mahomes or not.
Time is a flat circle. Power running and big-time defense.
It’s the wave of the future, bruh… and Zimmer is riding the crest. Cowabunga!