Tom Powers / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published January 15 2014
Powers: In Zimmer, Vikings find the anti-Frazier
Make way for the anti-Les Frazier.
The Vikings have hired hard-rock, tack-spitting, high-decibel Mike Zimmer as their new head coach. He has that wild-eyed Mike Shanahan look on the sideline, and when he goes off, his language can be salty. He also can be, uh ... animated.
Zimmer is more likely to take a balky player to the woodshed than to church. And instead of being a quiet fatherly type in the locker room, he trends toward the crazy uncle who lives in the basement.
This could work out.
Personality-wise, the Vikings have hired the complete opposite of Les Frazier, just as we all knew they would. Not to say that one temperament is better than the other, because Frazier was well respected. But if there is going to be a change, it might as well be a complete change. Zimmer is going to approach his duties a bit differently, and even though both sides are kissing on the cheek right now, it would be interesting to be in the room if and when Zygi Wilf suggests a personnel move.
Yes, that would be entertaining.
Personality aside, Zimmer brings an outstanding track record of defensive success. Vikings players who griped about defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ conservative approach last season should have no such complaints under Zimmer, who is noted for his aggressive approach and eagerness to blitz.
The best-case scenario has Zimmer bringing along at least one of his defensive assistants from Cincinnati and elevating him to coordinator. That person would know what Zimmer wants and expects and can implement his system. Zimmer, after all, will be busy with his other mandatory duties as Vikings head coach, such as crying in his cornflakes over the absence of a quarterback.
It’s difficult to say for sure, but best guess is that Zimmer’s fuse would have ignited and led to the inevitable blowup long ago if he had had to deal with Christian Ponder. While patience is a necessary commodity for all head coaches, Zimmer does not come across as a fellow who suffers incompetence lightly.
Meanwhile, since word of Zimmer’s initial job interview became public, I’ve heard from quite a few people in Cincinnati, mostly just fans, who wanted to say that they thought Zimmer, and not Jay Gruden, was the real prize on the Bengals coaching staff. That’s surprising because it’s difficult to get beyond the notion that, given half a chance, the Vikings will make the wrong move. You know, just because they are the Vikings.
Now, Zimmer is 57 years old, and it is unknown why he has been passed over for head coaching jobs all these years. He’s no flash in the pan coming off of one hot season; his defenses have been good for a long time, and it seems as if his name has always been out there as a head coaching candidate. But no team had been willing to commit.
Are the Vikings just that much smarter than everyone else? Really? Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that he has had to wait so long for an opportunity. Perhaps he was unlucky in that teams with openings were looking for a certain type of coach. Who knows? But he’s going to get his chance here, and it should be enjoyable to watch.
So move over Jerry Burns. Your intergalactic record for most F-bombs by a head coach in one four-minute stretch – 18 during a postgame news conference rant on Nov. 11, 1989 – could be in jeopardy. Anyone who has seen the HBO series “Hard Knocks” knows that Zimmer has the potential to crash through that magical 18 mark.
And that’s amazing because Burnsie’s record, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in baseball, has been considered untouchable. But Zimmer is a fiery guy. He’s an established defensive expert who is also known as a motivator. His former players have been giving glowing testimonials.
Is he the right guy for this job? We’ll see. But it does appear clear that Zimmer at least was the best candidate available.
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Tom Powers can be reached at email@example.com.