Short of hiring Bill Parcells, apparently the Vikings' owners have secured his prototype.
Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, who grew up die-hard fans of the New York Giants, gave their blessing for Mike Zimmer as the next head coach of their team, the third time the Wilfs have hired a new coach but the first time the search has been led by general manager Rick Spielman.
Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for the last six years and also six years with the Dallas Cowboys, four of them under Parcells, can have that direct, blunt streak that made Parcells famous while patrolled the sidelines of the Giants, Cowboys and New England Patriots.
"You want my prototype? It's the Belichicks and Zimmers," Parcells told the Cincinnati Enquirer in August 2013. "They grew up with it, they get it. He got it at a young age. Mike is a little high-strung, a little bit like me, but I don't know what they are waiting for with this guy because he has leadership qualities and he can coach."
Zimmer had been interviewing for head coaching positions in the NFL the previous two offseasons. The Vikings on Wednesday finally gave him the opportunity he has been seeking, and there is little question his demeanor will be a shakeup in contrast to Leslie Frazier's even-keeled ways.
"I've talked to a few guys and all of them said the same thing: He's a guy that coaches with a lot of passion. If you do something wrong, he's not going to be afraid to jump in your rear end make sure that you get it right," defensive end Brian Robison said. "But at the same time, if you deserve it he's going to be a guy that's going to praise you. I think that's what we need around here. We need a guy with some emotion and a guy that obviously wants the best out of his players."
Zimmer says what's on his mind. That holds true no matter who is watching or what cameras are recording, as those who watched the Bengals on the HBO series "Hard Knocks" can attest. The website Deadspin.com posted an expletive-filled clip of Zimmer addressing his Bengals defenders on the sideline of one game.
Spielman asked players during their exit interviews, on the same day Frazier was fired, what they wanted or felt they needed in their next head coach.
"I think Rick has done a great job of making sure that we get a guy that the players want to have around. That was one of the things that a lot of guys said – that we wanted a guy with a lot of passion, a guy that wanted to win as much as the players do and is isn't afraid speak his mind and tell the players what he thinks," Robison said. "I think that's what you're going to get out of Mike Zimmer."
While Zimmer may be blunt, he appears to have the respect of his players – several Bengals tweeted their congratulations for him while expressing how much they will miss him – colleagues and fans.
Yet Zimmer isn't afraid to call it like he sees it. And that includes sharp criticism of former bosses.
In 2007, in between his extensive time with the Dallas Cowboys and Bengals, Zimmer spent a season as the coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. His head coach – for 13 games, anyway – was former and once-again Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. In the midst of a bad season, Petrino ditched the Falcons after only 13 games to take over as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and return to college football.
"When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people's families and doesn't have enough guts to finish out the year, I'm not a part of it," Zimmer said, according to the Bengals' official website in 2010. "And you can put that in the Arkansas News Gazette. I don't really give a (expletive). He's a coward, he ruined a bunch of people's lives, a bunch of families, kids, because he didn't have enough (guts) to stay there and finish the job. And that's the truth. Most people in football have enough courage about him and enough fight to stick it out and not quit halfway through the year. It's cowardly.
"He came in and said he resigned, (said) he'd talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has talked to him since. Not that anybody wanted to. He's a gutless (expletive). You can quote that."
The Bengals have been to the playoffs each of the last three seasons and one-and-done in each of them. For Zimmer, that has been followed by interviews for a head coaching positions in the NFL that, until Wednesday, eluded him.
Media is still waiting for the Vikings to announce a press conference to introduce Zimmer. When they do, we can only hope he is as forthright and honest as in the past.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings getting the Parcells ‘prototype?'
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