EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is grateful to be staying in Minnesota.
He signed a three-year contract extension to remain at the helm, the team announced Friday, and Zimmer told media members that he's "very excited and humbled" by the deal that has him under contract through 2023.
"I feel blessed to be able to continue on with the Minnesota Vikings," Zimmer said from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center via video conference. "I've had great help with our owners – they've given us everything that we've ever asked them to do – and great help with the front office, with [General Manager Rick Spielman] and [Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski] and [Assistant General Manager George Paton] – those guys have been giving me a lot of help.
"Like I told the coaches the other day, being able to sign a long-term extension is because of what they've helped me do, specifically with the players … throughout my time here," he added. "I feel very blessed and very honored."
Zimmer is entering his seventh season as the Vikings head coach and has expressed on multiple occasions during his tenure how much he appreciates the fan support.
"The fans have been outstanding to me. I love the culture in the state of Minnesota. I love the way that they've opened their arms to myself and our [Mike Zimmer Foundation]," he said. "Hopefully we can continue to build upon this and get to where we need to be, which is in the Super Bowl."
Here are four other topics Zimmer talked about related to his contract extension:
1. Growth and experience
The Vikings gave Zimmer his first head-coaching gig after he spent years as a respected defensive coordinator with the Cowboys (2000-06), Falcons (2007) and Bengals (2008-13).
Through his first six regular seasons, Zimmer is 57-38-1, helping Minnesota rank seventh in wins among NFL teams since 2014. He has led the Vikings to NFC North titles in 2015 and 2017 and an additional appearance in the NFC Playoffs last season.
Asked how he feels he has improved since his rookie season as a head coach, Zimmer said, "I think I'm a lot better" and elaborated on the reasons for that.
"When you first do it, there's so many things that come up that you're having to prepare for. There's so many things – I mean, we've had to deal with [a lot up to this point]," Zimmer said. "So I think sometimes you kind of go through those things, you're able to understand the players a little bit better in a lot of different circumstances."
Zimmer also emphasized the help he receives from his coaching staff. He specifically named Co-Defensive Coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, along with Senior Defensive Assistant Dom Capers, who joined the Vikings this spring, extending his long coaching career.
"I'm trying to run a lot of things by them as we continue to move forward," Zimmer said. "But being able to study game management, time management, roster management … [and] we've been in two different facilities. I mean, there's so many things that we've gone through in the six years that I've been here that we've had to work through."
2. Emphasis on long-term
Zimmer, who had one year remaining on his current contract, said it was "very, very important" to settle on a three-year deal versus a shorter-term agreement.
"Partly because of my age," admitted the head coach, who turned 64 on June 5. "If I go two more years and I'm 66, my chance of being a head coach somewhere else would probably be not as good.
"I wanted to be here with the Vikings," he added. "I wanted to be here with the group that we've put together – the front office, the coaches, the players – so that was important to me that they were able to do that."
Zimmer was asked about the length of the negotiation period and whether he had worried that a deal may not be reached.
He acknowledged it "took a while to get started" with Vikings Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller being new to the position, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and then deciding to wait until after the NFL Draft.
View photos of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer who signed a 3-year contract extension with the team.
"Then as it gets closer and closer, you get antsy and want to get something done. They did, too. They wanted to get something done," Zimmer said. "We had some hard negotiations there in some parts of the contract that took a little bit longer than we anticipated.
"But there really wasn't a time I felt like it wasn't going to get done," he added. "I feel like this was going to get done, and it just took a little bit longer based on outside things that happened."
3. Old-school but innovative
Entering the 2020 NFL season, Zimmer is the fourth-oldest head coach behind Pete Carroll (68), Bill Belichick (68) and Bruce Arians (67).
He's often referred to as "old-school" both in demeanor and game plan, and he has continued to see success with his teams during a time it seems younger and younger coaches are entering the league.
Zimmer noted that although he's garnered a certain reputation, he still understands the importance of adapting and evolving every season.
"If you don't adjust and adapt and come up with new ideas and new things, you're never going to make it. Regardless of being 'old-school' or 'he wants to run the ball' and all of these things that people say, if you're not adapting every single day and every single year, you're not going to last very long because that's what everybody does, and that's the same as life," Zimmer said.
"I feel fortunate that I've never been fired, so I take more pride in that than anything else," he continued. "Not very many coaches can say that. I'm hoping that continues, knock on wood, but we're going to continue to adapt and adjust and invent things like we always have. Just like you say with some of these younger coaches that are doing offensive things and RPOs, we've done many innovative things defensively, as well."
View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.
4. No hasty decisions
With Zimmer's mention of his age and desire for a three-year contract, a natural follow-up question was whether he plans to seek an additional term down the road or if he plans for this to be his final rodeo.
"I don't want to make any decisions like that. I feel great," Zimmer said. "I love being around the players, love going out on the field and love game-planning and all the things you have to do to get ready for the season.
"I think when it gets to that time, we'll all make a decision – either I'm coaching really good or I'm coaching really bad," he added with a laugh. "Then we'll decide how I'm feeling and go from there. This is a great opportunity that we have to continue taking swings at what we need to swing at."