By Nick Vespasiano
Mike Zimmer was hired on Wednesday to be the ninth head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. The first time head coach was the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator since 2008 after holding the same position with the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. The hire came just over two weeks after Leslie Frazier was let go by the team.
Personality wise, Zimmer’s blunt honesty sharply contrasts Leslie Frazier’s passivity. When addressing the media, Leslie was often painfully vague or sounded like he was just repeating what general manager Rick Spielman wanted him to say. Vikings management was not willing to give up on Christian Ponder despite his lack of talent and Leslie stood by as we lost game after game. Zimmer is not that kind of coach. He will not be Spielman’s “yes man” like Frazier was for three seasons. Had he been head coach of the Vikings during the Christian Ponder era, Zimmer would have put up more of a fight when Spielman insisted Ponder be the starter.
One thing Zimmer and the former Vikings head coach have in common is they are defensive minds. Excluding a dismal 2010 season, in his six years in Cincinnati, the Bengals yards, touchdowns, and points allowed per drive and sack totals trended from the bottom half of the league to the top ten. Last season the Vikings ranked 31st in yards allowed and last in points allowed. Zimmer’s defenses in Cincinnati featured very few Pro-Bowlers, but the Vikings hope he can improve their defense that lacks top talent.
Zimmer has proven he can revamp a defense but the Vikings have issues offensively as well. This new coaching staff will have to find a quarterback that can consistently give the team a chance to win. If that doesn’t happen, the team likely won’t win many games and Zimmer will be fired in a few years just like Leslie Frazier. The Vikings’ offensive success will depend on not only on acquiring a quarterback either in free agency or the draft but also on hiring the right assistant coaches. While the draft is not until April, assistant coaches are being hired right now. The Vikings hired Norv Turner yesterday to replace Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator. As the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator last season, his offense had the 11th ranked passing game in the league despite an offensive depth chart worse than the Vikings’. While the offense will run through Adrian Peterson, Turner can help utilize weapons like Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings.
There are still many unknowns. There are still open assistant coach positions, free agency, and the upcoming draft. The roster and coaching staff are still incomplete but the Vikings seem to be moving in the right direction.
Nick Vespasiano is a senior English major at St. Olaf College and aspiring sports writer. He was raised in Minnesota, favorite teams are the Vikings, Wild, and Twins. Favorite athletes are Randy Moss and Jaromír Jágr.