Adam Zimmer will soon get a taste of what it’s like to run his own team.
The Vikings linebackers coach was recently tabbed as the Head Coach of the West squad in the 94th East-West Shrine Game, an annual college all-star game that will take place on Jan. 19 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Zimmer chatted with “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen on Wednesday’s 9 to Noon show on KFAN 100.3-FM about the chance to work in an elevated role.
“I’m really excited,” Zimmer said. “It’s a good opportunity to get down there and scout some players and get a chance to see what it’s like to be a head coach for a week.”
“It’s unbelievable how many texts and calls I’ve gotten and [words of] congratulations for getting this,” Zimmer later added. “It’s an honor to be able to this, and I think it’s going to be a great experience not only for just this week, but a learning experience for my career as I advance forward.”
The 2018 season marked Zimmer’s 13th in the NFL and fifth with the Vikings under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Adam’s father. In 2017, Zimmer’s unit – led by leading tackler Eric Kendricks and four-time Pro Bowler Anthony Barr – contributed to a defense that led the league in both total defense and scoring defense. The Vikings finished fourth and ninth, respectively, in 2018.
Adam Zimmer joked that he’s learning the headaches that his dad deals with week-in and week-out with the Vikings.
“We’ve talked a little bit,” Zimmer said. “I’m doing the practice schedules and meeting times and I said, ‘This is a pain in the butt.’ He texted me back and said, ‘Duh.’
“I’m getting a taste of what he has to go through on a daily basis,” Zimmer said.
But the 34-year-old Zimmer said he’s most looking forward to helping players improve their stock before the 2019 NFL Draft.
There are in-game limitations on what formations offenses can use, or what coverages defenses can run, so Zimmer emphasized the importance of practice reps and fundamental execution in the game toward the evaluation of players.
“They just want to see the players go out and play and showcase their skills,” Zimmer said. “It’s not about out-scheming the other team, it’s about getting the technique and getting them to learn the NFL way of life for a week.
“The practices are very important. The scouts are going to be down there during the week of practice more than they are for the game, really, so the practices are where they have the players showcase what they can do,” Zimmer later added. “When I get down there, I’m going to tell my coaching staff that I don’t want to do a bunch of scheming on the field, I want to see these guys move athletically and physically so they can put their best foot forward so the scouts can get a good evaluation of these guys.”
Zimmer won’t be the only Vikings coach in a new role, however, as four other coaches currently on staff will take on bigger responsibilities.
Vikings assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken will be the special teams coordinator and Vikings assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez will be the defensive line coach for the West.
Vikings co-offensive line coach Andrew Janocko will be the offensive coordinator and assistant defensive backs coach Jeff Howard will be the defensive backs coach for the East.
Zimmer quipped that he’s looking forward to seeing how the West’s defense fares against the East’s offense with Janocko calling plays.
“That will be a little rivalry going there,” Zimmer said with a laugh. “He told me we can’t blitz, and that’s part of the rules anyway, but I said if it gets close, you never know.”
In 2017, Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards was selected as the head coach for the West team. Included on his staff that January were Vikings coaches Kevin Stefanski and Janocko.
The game will kick off at 2 p.m. (CT) and will be televised live on NFL Network.
“I’m just going to be me and make input when I need to on offense or defense and manage the game just like I would manage the game if I were doing this full-time,” Zimmer said.