Fans of the Minnesota Vikings got an inside glimpse into the coaching malaise that took place with the team in 2016. Tight end Kyle Rudolph appeared Tuesday with Adam Schein of Mad Dog Sports Radio on Sirius XM and gave an inside look at the 2016 season.
Rudolph summed up the feeling of players who have been involved in the game since Pop Warner days (and those who have been around the NFL game even longer) in his assessment of the 2016 Vikings year.
“Unlike any other I’ve been a part of,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph toed the company line in trying to explain to outsiders, but praised Mike Zimmer as being the glue that held a sinking ship together.
“The big thing about this season was, as you look back and kind of reflect, what we were able to do – to be able to win eight games and there were a couple where you can go back and see that we kind of let get away late in the fourth quarter and overtime – we were really close to winning 10 games again this year and making a run at the playoffs,” Rudolph said. “Even with everything we went through. Our head coach couldn’t even stay healthy. Zim had four eye surgeries throughout the course of year, yet he still battled through each and every day. He kind of sets the tone, not only for our team, but for our whole organization – in terms of his toughness and his dedication to our team. We just kind of fall in line behind him.”
When the questioning turned to discussion of offensive coordinator Norv Turner walking away from the team, Rudolph was as stunned as anyone – just a few minutes earlier – that Turner wasn’t going to be his offensive coordinator anymore.
“We played Monday night in Chicago and I’m driving in on what I think is a normal Wednesday for us – we start a little later having the later game,” Rudolph said. “All the sudden, my phone just blows up with all these questions. ‘What’s going on up there?’ ‘Is Norv leaving?’ I had no idea. I’m just driving into work like a normal Wednesday. I found out via social media and text messages – like most people did.”
Rudolph was in the tight ends room, which got a new boss in Pat Shurmur in the offseason. When the offensive plan for 2016 was tragically altered by the injury to Teddy Bridgewater, Shurmur’s familiarity with Sam Bradford made for internal discussions that, while unspoken publicly behind the scenes, were taking place at Winter Park.
As the initial shock wore off, the clear implication of Turner’s resignation became clearer. Given the Vikings’ situation, the offense was better served without Turner and Rudolph respected his decision to back down quickly and quietly.
“I have a ton of respect for Norv,” Rudolph said. “You have to respect him in the fact that he didn’t see him helping us any further. A lot of people would have just kind of ride it out and not be fully dedicated to us as a team and that’s not what he wanted to do. You have to respect his decision that allowed us as a team to then move Coach Shurmur from the tight end room to offensive coordinator. He brought a new and different energy and some new ideas to our offense and I think the guys really rallied behind him the second half of the year.”
Rudolph got the last word on the feeling the players have for the Zimmer administration – or at least his personal reflection on the collapse of the 2016 season.
It seemed to sum up the feeling of many players – that, if Zimmer was willing to risk potential blindness for them in search of a football goal, they should give him the same professional courtesy.
“You hear the phrase that you would through a wall for a guy,” Rudolph said. “Coach Zim throughout the course of our three years together – of course I would run through a wall for him – but I wouldn’t run through a wall for him just because of the respect I have for him and how he motivates me as a player. I’d run through a wall for him because I feel like there would be something on the other side. Everything he does is for a reason.”
The two protesters that scaled a beam at U.S. Bank Stadium Jan. 1 and hung a banner saying “DIVEST” to U.S. Bank for its role in the funding of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline were formally charged Tuesday in a Minneapolis court. Karl Zimmerman Mayo, 33, of Minneapolis and Sen Holiday, 26, of St. Paul were both charged with burglary, disorderly conduct and trespass. Their first court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17.