Vikings fans got a good glimpse into their new head coach Thursday, as Mike Zimmer addressed the media. The line of questioning started out with discussion of the defensive backs and meandered as press conferences often do, but Zimmer's response to some of the questioning speaks volumes to what he brings to Minnesota as its new head coach.
Within the hanging sliders thrown his way, Zimmer was still able to emphasize the "new sheriff in town" persona he is quickly developing as he carves out the early stages of his head coaching legacy.
Asked if he thought the defensive backs were receptive to his coaching style, Zimmer was brutally honest about his assessment of the players' "buying in" to a system they will need to "buy in" to in order to keep their jobs.
"I think they are receptive," Zimmer said. "I don't worry too much if they are receptive or not. We just try to coach them up. They want to be coached, so I've spent a lot of time back there in the past so that is really nothing new."
Not to be outdone, the actual concept of players "buying into" the big-picture thinking of Zimmer's philosophy was brought into question. At this point, the sheriff unsnapped the strap over his revolver.
"I don't worry about that," Zimmer said. "I don't worry about if they are buying in. My job is to coach them hard and try to get them to be the best players they can be. You'd have to ask them if they are buying in, really. My job is to coach them."
But what about the concept of open competition for starting jobs. Zimmer had little reason to mince words.
"Sure," Zimmer said. "Our coaching staff doesn't know these guys for the most part, so we are just trying to figure out what guys do what best, and how we can use them and then who's the best guys. I think competition makes us all better."
Next up came the question of the value of OTAs – replete with the lack of hitting under "football conditions." Zimmer took the belt-high fastball deep, giving fans a glimpse into his view of the publicly held version of what pad-less practices can accomplish.
"It's a tremendous, tremendous value," Zimmer said. "The things that we get a chance to work on and accomplish, being able to understand where we are supposed to be in zone coverage, how the receivers are supposed to run the routes, the timing of everything, understanding how to play blocks, how to combination blocks on offense, the calls that we make. There are so many things that are so valuable. We're still in the early stages of what we are learning, but I do feel like as a team we're starting to work together a little bit better."
Asked about a specific player's chance of making the team, Zimmer capped off his message: Nobody is safe. There will be 53 players in September. Many of the guys hanging at Winter Park now won't be there when the roster is finalized. There aren't any "Zimmer guys" yet. He has three months to make those decisions. So how does a new sheriff talk about job security?
"We are just rolling guys in right now," Zimmer said. "We're not worried about the depth chart. We are worrying about trying to get each player better, trying to get better as a team, trying to make sure everybody understands what the other person is doing, the guy next to him, the guy behind him, the guy on the other side of the ball. I think that is all about teaching us how to be a team and play together as a team and play together as one."
There's a new sheriff in town. No bullets have flown yet, but he's let the word go forth. This is his team and players have two choices – buy in or get out. He wasn't bombarded with pointed questions. Despite that, the sheriff is sending the message to those who are listening. A new era is coming. Buckle up. It might be a bumpy ride at times, but it will never be boring.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Zimmer talks 'buying in' and player security
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