After two procedures and six needles in his right eye over the last two weeks to address a retina problem, Mike Zimmer is hoping his vision of his Minnesota Vikings is better than the vision in his right eye.
With his team on a three-game losing streak after being the last team to lose a game this season, Zimmer is trying to find the right approach to get his Vikings back on a winning track.
He has tried calling out his offensive line in previous weeks, calling them “soft,” then a week later saying he saw improvement. Lately, however, Zimmer has been trying to instill confidence in his team.
“You kind of get the mood of the team and how things are going and try to figure out what buttons to push and things like that,” he said. “We didn’t win the game the other day, but I was proud of the team the way they fought and the way they competed and the way they played.”
The Vikings dropped their third straight game on Sunday in a 22-16 loss to the Detroit Lions, but this one came in overtime with several mistakes contributing to the loss.
Blair Walsh missed an extra point that would have tied the game at 10 in the third quarter, then had a 46-yard field goal blocked early in the fourth quarter that would have given the Vikings a lead. After Rhett Ellison scored the go-ahead touchdown with 23 seconds left, the Vikings defense allowed the Lions to drive 35 yards and get Detroit kicker Matt Prater into position for the game-tying 58-yard field goal as time in regulation expired. The defense then allowed the Lions to drive 87 yards in 11 plays for the game-winning touchdown on the first series of overtime.
Still, for most of the game the defense was solid and the offense was improved, despite a costly red zone possession in the first half in which two penalties, a negative run and a sack took them out of scoring position and forced a punt.
“I just felt like during the game they looked like my football team has looked. Now, we didn’t win the game and we messed up some things, but if we’ll continue to look like the football team that we’ve kind of developed, we’ll win games,” Zimmer said. “Now, I’m not the most readily acceptable to losing, but there’s so many things about the process of trying to get wins and the process of how you’re doing things. I just felt like with all the stuff that went on the last couple weeks, for them to go out and act like my football team again, finally, I felt like it was a good thing. I told them, ‘If I can get six needles stuck in my eye the last two weeks, then they can suck it up for me.’”
Zimmer said his vision was “good,” although his eye was clearly irritated and red, and he gave an exaggerated squint/wink as a joke after he was asked about his vision.
Even so, he isn’t about to cut his own hours.
“It’s back to work,” he said, “back to the grind.”
He expects a strong work ethic from his team, just as he gives it with his game preparation throughout the week. But, lately, the hard-driving coach has shown a softer side to his team.
“He addresses us like a head coach should. All positive, positive feedback,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “You know, he’s going to be hard. We’ve got to eliminate the plays that killed us, the errors – jumping offside by me and the penalties on defense – holding and pass interference. But we do a lot of good things besides that that, too, so we’ve just got to get back to doing a lot of good things.”
Zimmer has called out his team after some wins and complimented their effort after some losses. But he has remained tried and true in support of their effort since arriving in 2014 and getting a handle on his players.
“I’m kind of an emotional person and I try to believe in people. I try to see what they’re like and who they are and what kind of competitors they are and things like that,” Zimmer said. “I’ve always said this, and I still believe that if the guys are going to bust their rear end for me then I’m going to bust my rear end for them, and I’m going to back them all the way. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t do that, but in the long term I think it’s the best way to go. There’s a lot of things you have to do with your heart when you make decisions as well.”