“I didn’t want to,” Zimmer said.
It didn’t take Zimmer long to make his selection for succession to Davidson, hiring Tony Sparano days later.
Sparano came with plenty of experience, much like the hiring of Pat Shurmur to coach tight ends. Both had stints as head coaches, Sparano in Miami and Shurmur in Cleveland. Both had experience previously coaching the respective positions they would be taking with the Vikings, although Zimmer moved tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski to running backs to accommodate Shurmur coaching a position he had before. And both have been coordinators.
While Zimmer said neither of those new hires would have any more input about the offense than any other position coach, despite their previous coordinator and head-coaching experience, he does expect changes with how the offensive line operates under Sparano.
“I think it’s going to change some techniques and Tony’s going to coach aggressively and be demanding,” Zimmer said. “I was with him before in Dallas so I’ve seen him work and that’s how he’s always been. He’s going to push them and make them try to be better every day.”
While Davidson also had experience as a coordinator with the Carolina Panthers before he was hired under the Leslie Frazier regime in Minnesota, his style was laid back, just as his demeanor and cigar-smoking ways indicated. Sparano’s style is quite different, Zimmer indicated.
While Zimmer was only mildly critical of the offensive line during the season, he was a little more direct when speaking at the Senior Bowl earlier this week.
Asked if there would be a noticeable difference to the amateur eye about how the offensive line operates under Sparano, he replied:
“I hope so.”
And then added the caveat.
“But I don’t think the casual observer will be able to tell the difference. I hope they see a difference in the way they play.”
At different points in a one-on-one interview that lasted more than 10 minutes, Zimmer several times pointed out the blocking problems the Vikings had as contributing to offensive deficiencies in several areas (more on that in stories in the coming days).
But when asked if the head-coaching and coordinator experience his two new hires, Sparano and Shurmur, had contributed to his desire to add them to the staff, he downplayed that angle.
“That’s just how it happened,” Zimmer said. “I just wanted good coaches. The best coaches I could get I wanted to get.”