Mike Zimmer carries an inner confidence in his abilities in his first year as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
More than five months into his first head coaching job and with no games to start gauging his success, Zimmer said there is nothing that has shocked him.
"I feel very secure in everything that we've done to this point. I'm not in awe of any aspect that's happened so far," he said after the team's last practice before training camp. "I think the players have helped a lot in that way, and making it easier to step into a new situation. I told them I appreciated that. The coaches have done an outstanding job."
After numerous interviews for head coaching opportunities over the last several years, Zimmer admitted that he briefly considered declining a second interview for the Vikings job in a moment of frustration. But in the weeks after taking the job, he assembled a strong coaching staff that includes the addition of experienced coordinators, including one, Norv Turner, that has held two head coaching jobs in the NFL.
"I've relied a lot on Norv. It's been great having him here, and not only Norv, but really all the coaches," Zimmer said. "Andre Patterson (defensive line), I've been with for a long time. Jeff Davidson (offensive line), I've always had a lot of respect for him. George Stewart (wide receivers), we played golf together the other day, not by choice but we got paired up together. It was good to get around him in a more social situation. You talk about a lot of different things. I think that's how you become close. You get to know one another, you feel free to talk and communicate and voice your opinion. I feel good about this staff and being able to rely on them."
Prior to getting the Vikings job, Zimmer was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-13), Atlanta Falcons (2007) and Dallas Cowboys (2000-06), as well as the defensive backs coach with the Cowboys from 1994-99.
His entire NFL experience has been rooted in defense, which is why having Turner around as an experienced and respected offensive coordinator, and a former head coach, has been important.
"We've talked a lot and we've got great communication because I think there are a lot of things similar in our backgrounds and the way we approach things. The way we've been brought up we are kind of old-school guys," Turner said. "I worked for John Robinson and Jimmy Johnson, and Mike with (Bill) Parcells and the guys he has worked with so that's our kind of background. A lot of it, this part of it, is the football and obviously you guys and everyone else is going to be more concerned with what happens on Sundays, so I think that's the biggest thing from being a coordinator and then going to be a head coach is managing all of the things you have to manage. You learn to rely on the people around you and we've talked a lot about that."
Zimmer was the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2009 and earned a Super Bowl ring following the 1995 season as the secondary coach for the Cowboys. Defense is his forte, but he still elected to bring in an experienced defensive coordinator in George Edwards.
Edwards was the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins in 2003 and Buffalo Bills in 2010 and 2011. This time, the defense is Zimmer's, who said he may even make the defensive calls on game day. That could leave an interesting dynamic between Edwards and Zimmer, but the coordinator said it's "been good."
"I've worked with Zim, Mike, way back from back in Dallas, so we have known each other a long time," Edwards said. "A good working relationship, a lot of respect for what he has done in this league defensively, systematically with this system as it's grown over the years and seeing where it's at, so it's been a great working relationship."
While Zimmer feels good about what he accomplished during the offseason program, he knows there is plenty for him to learn when it comes to being a head coach on game days. That part of his acclimation will start in less than two months with the advent of the preseason.
"Going from where I am at, now personally it's now about game situations and things that, when to throw the red flag, when to call a timeout, the different scenarios that happen," he said. "That will start to become my focus on areas that I need to get better at."
Fortunately for him, he has some experienced minds to rely upon.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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