Since his arrival in 2014, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has said that he wants to be able to teach the game of football to his players, not just teach them a single position. He goes through the offensive and defensive tape with the players and will ask a question about an offensive player to a defensive player and vise versa.
He believes teaching that way helps give his players a better understanding of the game of football as a whole. It helps them learn what their teammates are trying to accomplish at certain times and maybe even what their opponents are trying to accomplish. The players always need to be ready and paying attention during the film sessions because they never know when it will be their name called.
“Right now we’re doing kind of sessions on why we won games and why we lost games,” Zimmer said. “Each coach does a presentation, but I always like to ask questions at the end and I always try to reiterate points that they have. But I might just ask a question out of the blue ... to an offensive player or something like that. Or some of the principles that we have here as a football team. ‘What are we trying to do here in the red zone, give me the definition of red zone discipline.’ I asked (Chad) Greenway that the other day and he said, ‘You mean on offense?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he spit it out and he was correct.”
Being a rookie in these meetings can often be an overwhelming feeling because they might not be used to studying what the positions around them are supposed to do, let alone what players on the other side of the ball could be looking to do. The terminology of plays and formations is also likely to change between their college and current team, so that just adds to the complication.
Zimmer understands it is tough making the transition, so he is usually a little easier on the rookies this early on, but he wants to make sure they are paying attention and learning the material. That’s why he relies on his more veteran players to help him out, to make sure the rookies are doing everything they need to be doing in order to be successful.
“The good thing about our guys, and I see it with the rookies who are here right now going through this Phase 2. All of our older players take these guys under their wings and they continue to show them and teach them and talk to them about different coverages, or the way we run a route, or the way we do things,” Zimmer explained. “There’s no animosity. I see guys at the same position helping younger guys all the time, so it’s really good. But the good part about this for the young guys is we get a chance to teach them what we believe in, technique-wise. The way we do things here, the way we work and have the older veteran guys help teach them to be professionals, which is really good. It’s been going really good.”
The Vikings head coach is known as being a tough-minded guy that doesn’t want any excuses; he wants results. That’s a big reason why all the players pay attention in the film room, take notes and study the playbook. They don’t want to disappoint their coach if they don’t know the answer, and they don’t want to suffer the consequences.
Zimmer was asked how he knows the players are actually paying attention when in the film room. He simply turned to the reporter and with a sly smile said, “I can tell.”