Mike Zimmer stated his desire to establish his Minnesota Vikings with the sustained success that the Green Bay Packers have enjoyed recently in the NFC North, but he has no interest in following their quarterback’s 2014 advice for fans: R-E-L-A-X.
Win or lose, Zimmer isn’t going to relax and isn’t going to let his Vikings players do it, either.
Victory Monday, the name given to an optional player’s day off in the NFL after a win, has only been an occasional luxury for the Vikings under Zimmer this year, despite an 8-3 record.
“With this schedule coming up we knew we’d have come in. But he takes care of us. He takes care of us, whether it’s cutting down a couple reps or things like that take care of our legs,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Monday in the team’s locker room.
“We’re happy it’s Monday and we got a win, but at the same time it’s time to move on. We’ve got another big task ahead of ourselves. We have the Seattle Seahawks, who’s a great team and they won the NFC the last two years to go to the Super Bowl so we know it’s going to be a difficult time, but at the same time we’re ready.”
Perhaps the Vikings’ schedule dictates they stay about their business. Each of their final five regular-season opponents is still very much in the playoff chase.
Next up is the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, who are 6-5 and the projected sixth and final seed in the NFC, followed by the second-seeded Arizona Cardinals at 9-2 – a game that requires a short week of preparation for the Thursday night game on the road. Then it’s the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, both at 5-6 and the 10th and ninth seeds, respectively, in the NFC, before the season finale at the Green Bay Packers (7-4), the only NFC team in the playoff hunt that has beaten the 8-3 Vikings this year.
Combined, the Vikings’ next five opponents are 32-23 and all in the top 10 of the NFC, with the Seahawks, Packers and Cardinals all project playoff participants.
Despite winning six of their last seven games, Zimmer is sure to keep on his players.
“You can always do better. We’re just trying to strive for greatness. We want to be champions,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “So we still have a long ways to go, but in order to do that we need to finish games and fix the little things.”
Zimmer rarely lets his analysis with players or the media be influenced by the outcome of a game. He regularly points out the mistakes, both as a team and individuals, but also finds the positives, even in losses.
“I try to do both. I try to tell them the things we did good and why we won the game,” Zimmer said. “Honestly, a lot of the things I tell the team I tell you guys - not everything, of course. But then I also talk to them about things we have to do better if we’re going to continue to do the things that we want to get done.”
At 8-3, the Vikings have an 89 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to a New York Times playoff simulator. It would go to a 99 percent chance with a win Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
But it also increased 10 percent with their win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, a game Zimmer said was very important to him.
“It was important to me that we were better than we were a year ago,” Zimmer said. “We have a chance to – if we win (that) ballgame, we’d be 8-3 – we have a chance to continue to move forward. I don’t know, we lost last week, there was a lot of things.”
Although Zimmer didn’t review the Atlanta film with the players on Monday, he pointed out the flaws in their game, as he does each week, after that win. And the positives.
Munnerlyn said Zimmer is steady as they come in that regard.
“I think that’s just Zim. I feel just like him, though. We could have did a whole lot better. We made that game a whole lot harder than it should have been,” Munnerlyn said.
“He’ll never let you get too high on yourself or be too high on the team. He’s always like, ‘Hey, we have work to do’ and we know that. That’s a great thing with him.”
Barr said Zimmer will tell players when they had a good game, “but it’s usually followed by ‘but.’”
An 8-3 record is only part of the way to satisfying Zimmer if he wants to consistently take away the stranglehold the Packers have had on the division. Even then, there would be more to accomplish, like winning some hardware named after a former Green Bay coach.
“It’s going to be hard to satisfy this guy,” Munnerlyn said. “We’re going to have to get that Super Bowl trophy in our hands to satisfy him. He’s not satisfied at all and I think guys in this locker room, we’re not satisfied.”