When it comes to breaking down games that are played in the NFL, almost all of the focus is on the players. For casual fans, coaches are the architects of a game plan, but once a game begins their role is as an observer. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Coaches are asked to be chess masters. They aren’t on the field like kings, queens, bishops and rooks, but they are constantly battling one another with personnel packages designed to exploit fatal flaws in the opponent’s strategy.
If you become too predictable, good coaches find a way to exploit it. Great coaches find a way to eviscerate it.
USA Today ranked all 32 NFL coaches with the intent of picking out those who are the most innovative, successful and adaptable head coaches.
Few coaches have taken over teams and turned them around as quickly as Zimmer has. By the end of his first season, he had the Vikings as a team that protected its home turf – winning four of its last five home games in 2014 and instilling a basic tenet of coaching: You can beat us if you’re better, but not in our house.
Last year, Zimmer led the Vikings to a division title with a record of 11-5 and was able to accomplish only what good teams do – win on the road consistently and win against division opponents.
As a result, Zim checked in fourth on the USA Today list of head coaches – lofty aspirations indeed. He trailed only Bill Belichick (duh!), Pete Carroll (a slightly lesser duh! Two plays. Beast Mode. Why throw?) and Bruce Arians (love the Bagger Vance hat).
Here is what USA Today had to say in its assessment:
“Zimmer is the most creative defensive play-caller in the league. And more importantly, he knows how to develop young talent. Case in point: It took him only two years to turn Anthony Barr, who was seen as a raw prospect who would take some time to develop, into an All-Pro caliber player. The Vikings defense is going to be very good for a very long time.”
For those interested in the full list, it continues as follows:
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1673006-surprising-players-positi... 5. Sean Payton, New Orleans; 6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh; 7. John Harbaugh, Baltimore; 8. Ron Rivera, Carolina; 9. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay; 10. Andy Reid, Kansas City; 11. Chip Kelly, San Francisco; 12. John Fox, Chicago; 13. Bill O’Brien, Houston; 14. Gary Kubiak, Denver; 15. Todd Bowles, New York Jets; 16. Rex Ryan, Buffalo; 17. Jay Gruden, Washington; 18. Hue Jackson, Cleveland; 19. Marvin Lewis; 20. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis; 21. Jason Garrett, Dallas; 22. Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles; 23. Mike McCoy, San Diego; 24. Jack Del Rio, Oakland; 25. Jim Caldwell, Detroit; 26. Dan Quinn, Atlanta; 27. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville; 28. Adam Gase, Miami, 29. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants; 30. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia; 31. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay; 32. Mike Mularkey, Tennessee.
While the study is far from scientific – history would say if Lewis lost both of his coordinators to head coaching jobs, he should be rated above them, not behind both.
That being said, the national media is starting to notice what Vikings fans were cooking for the last year and a half. Zimmer has something good going in Minnesota and it is no longer the best-kept secret around the league.