The Vikings fired Mike Zimmer this morning, in a widely anticipated move. But beyond wins and losses, another reason to fire Zimmer emerged: he had become a cancer for team culture and the dressing room.
While Anthony Barr said at a press conference today that he feels Zimmer is underrated (like himself), comments from other players like Eric Kendricks have been less than flattering. “The
Were there things left out “in her relationship with Zimmer Kendricks, said, adding” I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go. “That doesn’t paint a pretty picture of this. as Kendricks, a team captain, thought of Zimmer’s leadership style.
Brian O’Neill, also a team captain, had this to say about team culture, especially for young players:
It could be something as simple as “Hey, how are you?” In the hallway or feeling like guys walking down the hall saying “Hello, how are you?” Hello.’ We spend so much time together and the season is so long that little personal things here or there could make a big difference for a young man or even a rookie who comes in and doesn’t really know how he’s doing, if he belongs. Little personal things that are different like that because guys do the best they can when they feel good about themselves and their role on a team. Plus we can cultivate a culture that guys feel good about themselves and that they are important to the team and everyone is in the same boat. And when young players start to learn that earlier, they start to do better, and everyone’s behind us and all of our successes and failures go hand in hand. The more we understand as players and coaches that we’re all in the same boat, I think a lot we would do to make it a better place. – Brian o’neill
The Vikings struggled mightily to develop offensive linemen during Zimmer’s day.
These comments paint a bad picture of the deterioration of Viking culture under Zimmer and give perspective to some of Zimmer’s other comments and actions over the past few weeks, even into the offseason.
Zimmer’s decision to play starters in a meaningless game against the Bears on Sunday seems more malicious in this context, denying young players a chance to show off and develop their skills, just as he doesn’t do more to give Justin Jefferson the record for receiving yards and his insulting comments on Kellen Mond.
But to come back further, to this past offseason, Zimmer admitted at a press conference that at some point in the 2020 season, he told Andre Patterson that they would be lucky to win 5 games with this group. It might have been an underrated comment at the time, but for returning players, it’s not exactly a vote of confidence. And after free agency and the draft, returning players who had shown promise as rookies and were hoping for a chance at a starting position, guys like Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand, discovered early on that these Hopes were misplaced as Zimmer gave the starting jobs to new acquisitions of veterans Bashaud Breeland and MacKensie Alexander without any competition. Even though Breeland and Alexander struggled, ranking at or near the bottom of the league in PFF ratings, they kept their starting jobs. Dantzler, who was one of the league’s top-ranked PFF cornerbacks during the latter part of his rookie season, reportedly didn’t react well to this news during the offseason and was in Zimmer’s niche for not having worked hard in training.
Chad Graff reports that attacking players often felt ignored by Zimmer, who spent most of his time defending, and sometimes felt like he was throwing them under the bus after losses rather than blaming himself or blame his defense.
Without a doubt, these things are starting to resonate with players, especially young players, who depend on the coaching staff and the head coach for their support and development. Looking back, it emerged that Zimmer, under pressure to deliver this season or lose his job, made the decision to bring in veterans in defense and relegate unreliable young players to backup jobs. He also let go of first-round pick Mike Hughes, who Zimmer said was not the same after his injuries, but who has since thrived with the Chiefs – ranking 14th among all cornerbacks by PFF level of coverage. this season – higher than any cornerback on the Vikings.
Zimmer, who entered the NFL as a defensive back coach, also split from defensive back coach Jerry Gray after the 2019 season. Gray was later hired by the Packers, and helped make Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes good cornerbacks. Meanwhile, Zimmer has struggled to develop one in Minnesota since then. Even Xavier Rhodes, who fell victim to a hat for the Vikings after the 2019 season, thrived last season in Indianapolis after back-to-back bad seasons with the Vikings.
Zimmer’s troubles might have engulfed Rick Spielman as well
As recently as last week, it was rumored that Zimmer would likely be fired, but chief executive Rick Spielman would be retained, but could have a different role within the organization. He seemed to have a closer relationship with the Wilfs than Zimmer, who trusted him and had worked with and promoted him during their 16 years together.
But his handling of Zimmer, his training and the movements of his players, and the declining culture may have swayed them towards the need for a cleanup and a new GM as well. I suspect that Harrison Smith’s extension, in a fairly lucrative set for a player his age, may have raised some eyebrows and was seen as unfair to how the contract issues with Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr were treated. Spielman is responsible for managing roster movements and player contracts, and perhaps the Wilfs felt he hadn’t done enough in that regard with recent deals.
Mike Zimmer was considered a pretty gruff coach when he was hired, and he had been ignored several times because of it, but the players responded well to him because if he could be tough on them he also had the reputation. to have the back, develop them and support them. And that’s what he did in his early years as head coach of the Vikings. But as his job security has become more fragile, that support appears to have waned, especially for younger players. And so, what was once considered a positive for Zimmer as a coach has become a negative that seems to have swelled over the past year or so.
Zimmer, unlike Rick Spielman, did not address the team at their Monday morning meeting when news of their layoff broke. His statement, released later today, did not notably thank either the Wilfs or Rick Spielman for hiring him, and only thanked the players who welcomed him when he was hired – a fairly short list of the current roster.
And so, given that track record, it’s no surprise that the Wilfs, in listing some of the qualities they look for in a head coach, besides being a strong leader, also cited a good communicator and a collaborative ability as key qualities they’re looking for a new head coach.
The positive thing that emerges from these otherwise not-so-positive revelations is that a new regime, provided they are the right hires, could lead to a culture change fairly quickly, which could have disproportionate effects on the bottom line. the future. And for a team that had ten games a year ago decided by a score or less, and fourteen games this year by a score or less, a more positive culture could be one of those seemingly little things that drives these. narrow defeats into victories.