Owner/President Mark Wilf:
Good morning everyone. Today is an exciting day in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. After a thorough search, led by Rick Spielman, his team and our ownership, we have selected a head coach who will be a great leader for many years to come. Mike Zimmer is a tremendous football coach. Mike Zimmer is a tremendous person. He is sincere, down to earth, no nonsense and direct. He is intense on the football field but he is respectful and he will represent the Vikings organization very well. Coach Zimmer has been a leader and a winner at every stop in the NFL and Vikings fans will love Coach Zimmer. He will help us compete for division championships each year and he will lead us to our ultimate goal of bringing a Super Bowl Championship to Minnesota. We are very excited. With that, I will turn it over to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.
General Manager Rick Spielman:
Thanks everybody for coming. I want to first and foremost thank the Wilf family. They were an extremely important part of this process. They were at every interview that we had went to, we did seven coaches in an eight day span and I appreciate everything giving us all the resources we needed to do to get that done. A lot of the coaches we talked to out there, there are some very, very talented coaches that I’m sure each and every one of the coaches that we talked to will eventually get an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But when we talked to Mike Zimmer, there was something different about that. We interviewed him for a very long time, we brought him in for a second interview and spent another whole day with him. The thing that stuck out to us the most was not only the passion, but the football intelligence and the leadership, and that’s something that we felt was very important going into this coaching search that we wanted to find. He has a great history of developing young talent; of taking veterans and having them even play beyond their ability. You don’t have to stand up here and talk about what his defenses have done throughout his career. The other thing is we went through this search was talking to his former coaches, talking to former players, talking to agents who had players play for him. There was not one negative thing that was said about Mike Zimmer. The thing that stuck out the most was that he’s going to coach hard, he’s going to push us as hard as he can, but every person to a man said how much they love playing for Coach Zimmer. Working with him over the last couple days, there is no doubt in my mind that when we set out this process that we wanted to find the right guy. It did not have to be an offensive guy, a defensive guy, a special teams guy, it had to be a right guy for the Minnesota Vikings. As we concluded this process, there is no doubt Mike Zimmer is the guy for the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a great honor and a great pleasure for me to introduce you to our new head football coach, it’s a great day for the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Zimmer.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer:
Thanks Rick. My family and I are thrilled and excited to come to Minnesota, a place with such tremendous passion and proud tradition. I walk down these hallways in the building here and I see all the jerseys up on the wall of all the great players who have played here - Hall of Fame players. I can walk down to the end of the hallway and talk to Hall of Fame coaches like Bud Grant. I want to thank the Wilf Family, ownership, and to General Manager Rick Spielman for the opportunity that you presented with me. I am a Midwest guy. I grew up in an area very similar to this watching NFC North football, the black and blue division. I was hunting and fishing in areas very similar to around here. I want Vikings football to be a tough, smart and aggressive team that plays with passion and that works relentlessly for one common goal. I pride myself in making each player better with technique, and teaching them every aspect of the game. I want our fans to be proud of the way we play - tough, resilient, physical football and a team that makes big plays and represents them on the field and in the community. We don’t win alone. We win as a team and I am determined to bring a championship to Minnesota and I can’t wait to get to work. Thank you.
Q: Did you ever think this day would happen at any point in your career?
A: Sometimes you wonder, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. I feel like I was destined to do this and for the first couple days that I have been here that office upstairs feels really comfortable. I am excited about it and again I thank the Wilfs and Rick Spielman for giving me this opportunity. Like I have told a lot of people, I have a chip on my shoulder. I want to make sure that 31 other teams know that I am here and that I am ready to coach this football team.
Q: Have you decided on your coordinators yet?
A: No. We are still working on the staff situations on everything right now. We are going to announce the entire staff at a later time when we get them all finished.
Q: A lot has been made of your no nonsense approach to coaching, but at the same time a lot has been said from former players about your impact on their lives; what is your mentality for player development as well as impacting the people they are off the field?
A: Well I think one of the things about being a coach number one you are a teacher. You are trying to teach them about techniques, you are trying to teach them about all the different aspects of the game of football. Not just offense or defense but what the other side of the ball is thinking. Part of that though is teaching them about life and trying to get them to become better citizens, to become better fathers, to become better spouses and all of those types of things. I just think that is all part of the role that you have and luckily I have had a lot of mentors with me and I have a lot of the players I have grown close to.
Q: When you look at the roster you inherited, how do evaluate the situation and the players you now have?
A: Well l think we have a great group of young core talent. Obviously we have some very, very special players and we are still in the evaluation process of all of those things. What we are trying to do is to get everybody together, the scouts, Scott Studwell, George Paton and everybody in this organization has done a fantastic job of evaluating a lot of guys. So I think we want to just make sure to continue down that road. I am a big believer in when we get out here in the field show me what you can do. I don’t ever want to pre-judge a player from what I see on film because I do not know what the previous coaches have told them and I have my own ideas on the way I want to do things.
Q: How involved do you plan on being with designing the defense?
A: Very. I plan on it being very similar to what I have done in Cincinnati. It’s always going to be part of my little baby because that is who I am and what has got me here. So that will always be a big part of me.
Q: What did you want to hear from the Vikings to be sold on this job?
A: Actually there were quite a few things. I wanted to find out how Rick and I could work together because I think that’s maybe the most important thing is the General Manager and the head football coach are on the same page. I talk a lot with the players about being on the same page; everybody understanding their roles, knowing what to do, and how to do it, and how we expect to do it. Him and I being on the same page is probably more important than anything and then with the Wilfs. They want to win a Super Bowl as badly as anybody in the world, and I honestly can’t wait to stand on the podium with Zygi, Mark and Jonathan and we are standing on the podium, and we look up and the confetti is falling down on top of us, and we are all hand in hand, and Commissioner Goodell comes over and he hands the Super Bowl trophy to Mr. Wilf, and tells him he is World Champions. So that is my goal and that is my drive.
Q: What were your impressions of the Vikings team you played against this year?
A: Honestly I studied their offense and I was nervous as all get out that week. They were 13th in the league in offense when we played them. They’ve got a lot of talent, they have some physicality to them, and obviously they have some great players on the offensive side of the ball so I thought it was going to be a heck of a game. Sometimes those kind of games just turn out the way they did.
Q: There is a lot of talk about how intense you are on the field, and anyone who has seen you on Hard Knocks points to your fiery nature?
A: Let me first say about Hard Knocks, the people that do that show are extremely, extremely professional. I have never worked with as many great media people as I did those three times. But they can kind of portray you anyway they want to, and obviously on the field I am going to be a fiery kind of guy at times when I feel that I need to. There are times when I call guys into the office and talk to them, but I think that I am an honest person, I think that I am sincere and all I want to do is make each player better however that is, and honestly I coach guys differently. I am going to be passionate on the field because that is who I am, that is why they hired me is to be passionate and to be an expert in my field so those are the things that I plan on doing.
Q: What are the challenges that you face from going from coordinator to the face of a franchise, when honesty might not be the best policy in what you are trying to display?
A: I think honesty is always to the best policy. That is what players want. Players want to be coached. They want to be told what is right and what is wrong. I am doing a disservice to my players if I am not honest with them. I want people to be honest with me and I am sure you want people to be honest with you. So there is different ways to do it so I just think that that is the best way to be. I am going to try to do my very best to be as honest as I can, and sometimes they don’t like the answer but they respect the answer.
Q: Do you think your bluntness hurt you in previous interviews and did you change anything in this interview with the Vikings?
A: I was never blunt in any interview. I was never direct in any interview. I told them what I think; I would wish that you could ask these guys over here how I was in that interview. I was not any different in any one. So that was a perception by whoever put that out there. That was not the case.
Q: A lot of coaches, Bill Parcells as one of them, came out unsolicited offering their praise and support of you. Is there a certain coach you look for guidance and try to fashion your head coaching style after?
A: I have several, but Bill obviously is a great Hall of Fame coach, and has always been a great mentor of mine. When I was in Dallas my office was right next door to his, and he would come in and say, “Mike, when you are a head coach write this down.” It was like daily that he would tell me things like that. He called me after I accepted the job here and the first thing he said was, “Mike, get a pen, and write this down,” and he had three things for me to write down that day. I am actually going to go down and see him about the first part of the process being a new head coach in a new program. But I have worked under Barry Switzer who was a Hall of Fame coach, Marvin Lewis who I was with for six years, Mike Price, and my father was a high school coach and is in three Hall of Fames, two for coaching, one for playing. I think you get molded in a lot of different ways, especially when you are growing up but hopefully I continue to learn as the process goes and hopefully some of the coaches that we hire learn from me someday.
Q: Every team but the Vikings has a franchise quarterback in place in the NFC North. How big of a challenge will it be for you to address that issue and get a quarterback to lead your team?
A: We are going to do our very best to have the best quarterback in the division. I understand that there are some very good quarterbacks in this division. But my job is to win football games, ut is not to worry about if our quarterback is fourth best in the division or first best in the division. What we want to try to do is win football games however we have to. It doesn’t matter what type of offense, I have ran the four-three, and I have run the three-four, and quite honestly as long as everyone is on the same page, everybody knows what they are supposed to do, everyone does it to the best of their ability, you can win football games. A lot of times if you don’t make mistakes you beat half of the teams in this league.
Q: Bill Parcells has a saying that hiring a coach’s son is always a wise move. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Bill did tell me he is a very good friend of yours. You were actually the first name that he mentioned when he called me on the phone about a week before. But I am just hoping that this coach’s son succeeds.
Q: Do any of the quarterbacks on the roster work for what you are trying to accomplish?
A: I have honestly been here 48 hours. I am trying to get coaches hired number one. I am looking at some of the defensive players first and once we get the offensive coordinator hired I think we are going to sit down and start to evaluate those guys, but I think that it would be unfair for me to come up here and say so and so is not ready to play, or so and so is going to be a great quarterback. We all have to prove our worth. That is no different than myself or the quarterback or anybody else.
Q: Have you talked to any of the current Viking players?
A: I have talked to some players. Some players have called here. I plan on doing a lot more of that in the future. My message really is just to get to work and kind of the same things that I have been telling you all about working together, playing together, playing real hard. I think that if you ask any of the coaches around the league that played against my defenses they will tell you that maybe we aren’t the fanciest, maybe we are not the most exotic, but they are going to have a full days work playing against us. That is kind of what I want our football team to represent. When you go play the Minnesota Vikings, you are going to have a full days work ahead of you. You are going to have to go out and beat us because we are not going to beat ourselves and we are going to give you all you want that day.
Q: Do you prefer the four-three defense and what is your defensive philosophy?
A: Honestly, I want to fit our scheme to the players to the best of their abilities. Like I said before, it really does not matter if it is a three-four or a four-three, and as far as my philosophy I want to stop the run and I want to hit the quarterback. However that is, if we got to blitz I think we have a great blitz package, but I want to be fundamentally sound in what we do. There are teams that can go out there who can go out and make a lot of big plays, but they are not fundamentally sound. Then when the game gets on the line, they do not perform in the crucial situations of the game.
Q: What is the best coach to general manager relationship that you can imagine, including who has the final say on roster moves?
A: I think that this is a collective team effort. Rick and I have been extremely honest with each other. Like I have been talking about all day is honesty, the more that we are honest with each other, are we going to disagree? Yes. We all have opinions and that is a good thing. But the most important thing is that when we walk out of there, we walk out of there together arm and arm, and it is a Minnesota Vikings decision and not a Mike Zimmer decision or a Rick Spielman decision or anything like that.
Q: Have you been encouraged to keep any coaches from Leslie Frazier’s staff and do you anticipate keeping any?
A: No I haven’t been encouraged. What they want to do here is get the best football staff that they can have here. We have talked about different situations and coaches but we are just trying to work through all of those things. It has been kind of a whirlwind here. I had to find the bathroom the first day so it is not like it is business as usual for me.
Q: Do you plan on calling defensive calls on game day or your defensive coordinator?
A: I may. I do think that that is one of my expertise areas. If need be I will. That will be a little bit of a transition so I will have to work through that. I think part of that for me will be some of the preseason games and how I feel about the things we are doing defensively, how I feel about the game management, taking the penalties, communicating with the offense. So I think that all of those things will be a little bit of a let’s wait and see. I told Rick this same thing. I am an observer. Everybody says that you are going to go out there and chew people’s butts but that is not true. I go out and I observe to find out what needs to be fixed and then I fix. I do think I am a fixer and I do think I am an observer. If guys are doing things correctly there is no issue whatsoever. I have told my players many, many times before we have had a bad game, “Here is what I do. I fix stuff. I am going to go out and I am going to fix this.” They all trust that I can get it fixed and so that kind of is what my personality is.
Q: Will you retain Mike Priefer as your special teams coordinator?
A: Well really what I am going to do is evaluate all of the coaches. All of the coaches that are here, we are going to continue to evaluate all of the coaches on the outside and then we are going to make a decision on all of those collectively. I have not made any decisions on coaches so far. We are going to announce those at that time.
Q: What single element are you looking for in your coaches?
A: I want teachers, I want leaders, and I want guys that will convey the message that I am trying to convey. They don’t all have to be like me. That is hard to do anyway. I want guys to be themselves but most importantly I want guys to be great teachers, great motivators, great leaders, and, obviously, great technicians and football coaches.
Q: You talk a lot of being a teacher and a guy who can fix players flaws, so accountability must be important; how do you expect players and coaches to gain or attain that accountability?
A: Players learn in so many different ways. But you are right; accountability is a big, big factor. Our players are going to be accountable here. They are going to be accountable to me and I am going to be accountable to ownership and the general manager and that is the first step. There is a great quote by Vince Lombardi that says, “Once you have their hearts, they will follow you anywhere.” That is really what I want to do. I want to grab these players’ hearts and get them to follow me.
Q: Is it safe to say your son will be on your staff, or does he first have to blow you away in the interview process?
A: It is not safe to say that. I have worked with my son, but as I said before, our most important thing right now is to evaluate the coaches and see where everybody fits.
Q: Are you looking for someone to run the offensive side of the ball as your offensive coordinator?
A: No, I want to be the head coach. I want to hire an offensive coordinator, yes, and I want him to have his ideas, but I want to be the head coach and I want to be in charge of this football team and I want to be in charge of everything that we do here so there will be times when I’ll go in the offensive room and talk to them about certain plays and doing different things and what I have seen on tape and being a defensive coach and knowing a lot of things that hurt certain defenses and I know a lot of coaches in this league from playing against them for so long. But my goal is to be the head coach, not the defensive coach, and then have an offensive coach to be the offensive coach.
Q: You have been known to help struggling players with their careers. Do you want to be hands on like you have in the past with players like that on this team?
A: Definitely. Hopefully that is one of my strengths. I love players like that. I love players that have something to prove. I love taking guys that people said can’t play anymore or they are not smart enough to play, or whatever the reason is, because a lot of people said that about me, so I kind of feel a special bond to those type of guys. It makes me feel good when I can take players who haven’t worked out at other places and turn them into good football players and good people. So I guess the short answer is yes.
Q: Do you think that your relationship with players will change from going from a coordinator to head coach?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t been in this role long enough. My role on defense was always a leader. I wasn’t buddy-buddy with them, and I didn’t go out and have dinner with them. I told them that the first day I walked in in Cincinnati I don’t need their cell phone numbers, I am not going to call them and go out to dinner, but if I need to find them I will find them. That is kind of how I am going to be here. But I think you develop relationships with people, you don’t walk in and say, “Hey, I am your new coach now we are buddy-buddy.” It doesn’t work that way.
Q: Who helped you most overcome the tragic loss of your wife in 2009 and was there any emotions with her not being here to see you today?
A: It was an extremely hard time. The people in Cincinnati were fantastic. Marvin Lewis was fantastic. The football team, the defensive players were really fantastic, yes she would be really proud today. She would be really proud today.
Q: Have you talked to
A: I have reached out to Adrian. We have not been able to talk yet. I look forward to doing that and I look forward to visiting with all of the players.
Q: It was 35 years ago that you took your first job as a college assistant. Did you see yourself being where you are today?
A: Yes. Like I said before I have always had a lot of confidence in myself. Obviously I have become a better football coach in 35 years, I hope. I just know that I am pretty good at my job. I am pretty good at what I do. It has shown by the players that have talked about me, honestly I am paying most of them anyway, and honestly that makes me more proud than anything is to have players unsolicited talk about me and those type of things.
Q: Do you have a timeline for when your staff will be in place?
A: We don’t have a timeline. Obviously you would like to get it done as fast as you can, but it is more important to get the right people. It is not like the draft is coming up and we have to have it on a certain day. We have to find the right people in the right mixture and nucleus for this football team and for this football staff. That is the most important thing and if it takes two months, I don’t think it will, but if it takes two months, then that is the best thing.
Q: Are there some coaches that you may have targeted that are still playing in the championship games this weekend?
A: I think always you have people that you know and have a list, like I am sure that Rick had a list of guys that he wanted to talk to. I think you always have a list. I don’t know if it is targeted, and I don’t know if any of them are in championship games or not, but all I know is that we will get it done as fast as we can to the best that we can.