INDIANAPOLIS — Perhaps one of the biggest storylines that has followed Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in his five seasons in Minnesota is the struggles his team has had at the kicker position.
But it appears Zimmer is set on trying to eliminate the roller-coaster ride at that position, as he revealed Thursday at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that he is entertaining the idea of hiring a "true kickers coach" going forward.
"I've thought about that an awful lot with the kicking situation we've had for the five years that I've been there," said Zimmer, who couldn't help but laugh when asked about the inconsistencies he's dealt with that that position. "I think part of it is that we allow them, especially a young guy, to make some mistakes, make sure they understand that we're behind them.
"But I also have really been thinking hard about trying to get someone – you know, the golfers have their swing coach, everybody's got coaches now to do these things – so I've been thinking really, really hard about trying to find a true kickers coach, where that's all he really does," Zimmer added.
In the five seasons Zimmer has been at the helm, the combination of Blair Walsh, Kai Forbath, Daniel Carlson and Dan Bailey have combined to make 141 of 175 regular-season field goals, good for a success rate of 80.6 percent.
Walsh, of course, missed a 27-yard field goal against the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs in January of 2016. And Carlson missed a trio of kicks in Week 2 of the 2018 season in Green Bay as the Vikings and Packers played to a 29-29 tie.
That doesn't even get into the 17 missed extra points Zimmer has endured since the NFL moved the kick to a 33-yard try at the start of the 2015 season.
Zimmer wondered aloud on Thursday how those missed kicks have impacted potential deep playoff runs for the Vikings.
"As you know, we've struggled finding the kicker and consistency at that position, especially," Zimmer said. "I go back and think about the three kicks in Green Bay and Blair Walsh missed a 27-yarder and how much that affected the organization.
"If we get in the playoffs [this past season], who knows? If we win that first playoff game [in January of 2016 against] Seattle, who knows?" Zimmer added. "So those are the kinds of things that enter my mind as we're trying to get to the next level."
Zimmer said Thursday that he's in no hurry to add the position, which will likely be a former kicker who knows the technique, and will only do so if he "can find the right guy." He also added that new Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf is on board with the idea of a position-specific coach.
Zimmer also noted he chatted with Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, who made his name as an excellent special teams coordinator, about the importance of special teams in the NFL. (Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker has made 237 of 263 career field goals, and ranks first in league history with a success rate of 90.1 percent).
One area that came up in Zimmer's conversation with Harbaugh was how the entire operation — from the long snapper to the holder to the kicker — has to work smoothly in order for the kicker to have success.
Zimmer said he underestimated that aspect of special teams but will make it a focus going forward.
"I'm learning a lot more about it. I was talking to John today about how important the holder is," Zimmer said. "That part, about the consistency with the snapper and the holder and the kicker.
"Quite honestly, I'm not opposed to having Adam Thielen or a backup quarterback or Harrison [Smith] or anybody do it. A lot of these guys have done it in high school and some of them have done it in college," Zimmer added. "That part is important for the kicker as well. If you have a holder who is not real good, he messes up the kicker, too. That's a part I took for granted a little bit, maybe. I guess it's harder than I thought."
It remains to be seen if Zimmer will in fact hire a kickers-only coach, but it was a buzzworthy topic Thursday in Indianapolis.
And if Minnesota can get some measure of successful consistency from that position going forward, it could only help Zimmer get the Vikings to where he believes they can go.
"I go back and think about, and I'm not trying to lay all of this on the kicker, but we talk about scoring points and we've played pretty good defense over the five years," Zimmer said. "That guy wins games for you with the type of games we were playing.
"That kicker is important," Zimmer added. "If you get the right one … he can help you."