Zimmer’s system progressing with time
In their first year taking over the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff had a lot of work to do. They had to implement a new playbook, teach players new techniques and learn the strengths and weaknesses of each player so they knew how to better utilize them.
The coaching staff is now entering into their second year with the Vikings. Toward the end of the 2014 season, things appeared to click for the team and they started to play well despite an injury-depleted roster. Since the players are now more understanding of what Zimmer wants to do, he can move on and start teaching more of a team aspect to the players instead of just focusing on individual techniques.
“I think this phase, two part, is really good for us to be able to teach them more about the game,” Zimmer said. “Not so much about the technique that they play or the defense, but how can we do a better job as a team. You know, have everybody in here and then I’ll ask defensive guys questions about offense and vice versa. So I’m trying to build the team part of things.”
Zimmer wants everybody on the field to know what the other players are responsible for, as well as what they are responsible for. That way all the players can hold one another accountable and the team benefits as a whole. If the offense and defense understand how players on the other side of the ball think, then they should be better at recognizing what their opponents are doing out on the field.
Having players be this aware of what is going on allows Zimmer and his coaching staff to begin to open up the playbook a little bit more. But Zimmer mentions that they won’t expand the playbook just because it is the players’ second year in the system. It all depends on how well the players take to the new items, and whether or not they can learn and perform the tasks given to them.
“It’s still doing what the players can do and what they can learn,” Zimmer said. “And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of time – is it’s not what I know, it’s what they know.”
Zimmer has now had two offseasons to bring in the free agents he wants and draft the players he wants. That has given him a good nucleus of talent to work with and you can begin to see what kind of team he is hoping to establish.
Even though he has gotten to learn more about these players and how to use them, there is still more for him to learn. He wants to use the full potential of each player, and in order to do that he needs to understand how to use each player. That only comes with time spent together during practice and games, but in his second year Zimmer should be even better at doing this.
“I think I have a better idea on some of the things, but some of the things is also how we can keep trying to improve certain guys and certain things that they do know that we’ve known them for a year,” Zimmer said. “The certain things we can work on more. How can I use Linval (Joseph) better, how can I Sharrif (Floyd) a little bit better, and things like that.”
As Zimmer’s second year continues forward, it’s likely he will begin to teach the returning players more about schemes and how each player fits into what he is wanting to do instead of individual techniques.
The team concept has always been something Zimmer has preached. He doesn’t care if one player records 10 interceptions or 20 sacks in a year. He just wants his team to win, and he believes if everyone buys into his system they will do just that.
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