EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike** *Zimmer said Wednesday that he plans to patiently evaluate the 2016 season in its entirety, but there's one topic he didn't hesitate to assess: Sam Bradford's performance in purple.
Bradford was dealt a difficult hand, and Zimmer is nothing short of pleased with the quarterback's overall results.
"Honestly, if you sat back and looked at all the things – being traded, trying to learn a new system, having a new coach, having to learn teammates – all these things that he's had to deal with. Injuries on offense," Zimmer said. "I thought he's done an unbelievable job."
Zimmer is known as a team-first coach and very rarely praises a player's individual accomplishments. He did, however, emphasize Bradford's stats in driving home his point.
"He's got a chance to break an NFL record for completion percentage," Zimmer said of Bradford. "His quarterback rating is the highest it's been in his career. Maybe this is the best year he's ever had."
Added Zimmer: "If you put all those together and look at the things he's had to deal with, I think he's been amazing."
Bradford will enter Sunday's game against the Bears with a 71.3 completion percentage, within reach of breaking the NFL single-season mark (71.2) and the Vikings franchise mark (69.2).
With Bradford joining the team in early September and going on to have a strong season, Zimmer was asked if he expects players to perform better in their second year with a team. Bradford will be under contract next season.
The Vikings acquired Bradford via trade after Teddy Bridgewater's season-ending injury, but Zimmer said he essentially viewed the quarterback as a free agent in terms of joining the team.
"When you bring a free agent in, typically, they're a lot better their second year than their first year," Zimmer said. "You can go through a lot of the guys that we have on this team that were free agents and in their second year they played much, much better than they did the first year. Because they get more comfortable in the system, they understand things more, they understand how we do things."
Zimmer added that he feels the same concept would apply to Bradford.
During his own podium session with media, Bradford also emphasized how his comfort level with the team progressed since he first arrived in Minnesota just under four months ago.
Early on in the season Bradford spoke on the warm welcome he received from his new teammates, and again gave them credit.
"That locker room has embraced me, which I think made my transition so much easier, because I think it was tough for me to come into a locker room and not really know anyone" Bradford said. "Obviously, it's tough for them to have a guy come in the [right before] the regular season and play quarterback."
In reflecting back on the season, Bradford likened the process to building a relationship.
"You have to spend time with each other. You have to communicate," Bradford said. "And so, I think just being around the building, being in the huddle, going out there and playing on Sundays with those guys, that's when you learn a lot about each other, and I think each week, it just kind of continued to grow."
Zimmer said he's seen the development Bradford described. Bradford's increasing comfort level with not only the offensive system but with his teammates has helped him be a leader, albeit a quiet one.
"I don't think he has pushed it at all," Zimmer said of Bradford's leadership. "I think Sam just tries to be himself, which is fine with me. You can be a 'rah-rah' guy and not perform or guys don't listen to you.
"There's a lot of different ways to be a leader," Zimmer added. "And I'm fine with the way he does it."