EAGAN, Minn. — Ten days after announcing a three-year contract extension for Head Coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings on Monday announced a multi-year agreement with General Manager Rick Spielman.
The moves keep intact a unified approach to one common, ultimate goal. They also allow Zimmer to remain at the helm, where he's recorded 57 victories in six regular seasons, and Spielman at the post he's held since 2012 when he officially became GM.
The two "football guys" and sons of coaches easily were able to speak the same language from day one, with Zimmer defining the traits that he wanted, Spielman and scouting company combing the far reaches of the football earth, and Zimmer's staff helping prospects prosper.
Draft, develop and retain has been the result of an understanding of what the men view as an ideal Minnesota Viking.
They've spoken the same language — one of the straight-shooting variety — and shared the same vision.
"When Coach Zim' came and we hired him as our head coach, we had a vision of how we wanted to build this team," Spielman said. "I know this year we have a lot of new faces that are coming into the organization, a lot of new players, a totally different challenge because the coaches haven't been able to work with these players until this time when we're technically kind of opening up training camp. But I think it's sticking to your principles, sticking to everything that you believe in on how you build a winning culture.
"He's talked about it numerous times, from the type of players that we want to bring in that are smart, very passionate, high-character guys off the field," Spielman added. "But also I think it's not only the players, but there's gotta be that culture with the coaching staff, there's gotta be that culture with everybody under the football operations umbrella, and when you can bring all that together with the same goals, the same common vision, I think that's where you hopefully will make the breakthrough."
Zimmer said Spielman has done a "phenomenal job."
"First of all, Rick's a football guy," Zimmer said. "He loves the process of digging out players, understanding schemes, understanding what we're looking for in each particular position, and then being able to relay it to the scouts. And then working together with us and the coaches. I think the biggest compliment you can give to a general manager is that he's a football guy."
Perhaps the greatest thing working for the duo is that neither seems to have to try to "out-football-guy" the other.
Each knows and respects the dedication that the other has put forth during his career, both working their ways up a difficult profession.
Asked to name what he believes is his signature on the Vikings organization, Spielman said he hopes it is a type of leadership built on "trying to put others first, trying to give everybody the ability to do their job, the freedom to do their job and flexibility to come up with creative new ways to look at things."
Zimmer noted relationships evolve over time but a genuine love for football remains at the core.
"The biggest thing is all relationships are going to grow over the course of time, but Rick and I have had a great relationship," Zimmer said. "His dad was a football coach, my dad was a football coach. He's a very intense guy. I'm a very intense guy.
"But most importantly, we really love football," Zimmer added. "We love the process of all this. We love trying to put together a championship-caliber football team. We love the discipline we have to have within this building of trying to make sure that guys are doing the right things, they're studying the right ways. All the way along we've had a really good relationship, and obviously it's grown. We can tease each other a little bit more now. I understand his bad jokes probably better than anybody."
They know joys and pains, triumphs and tragedies.
Most important, they can count on each other, no matter the circumstance.
Spielman reiterated the goal of helping the Vikings win a Super Bowl is shared throughout the organization.
"There's no one that deserves that honor more than our ownership, this organization and especially our fans," Spielman said. "I promise you that when we come in here every day, that is our ultimate goal."
Here are four other highlights from Monday's media sessions with Spielman and Zimmer.
1. Taking continuity into the unknown
Zimmer mentioned that his longtime mentor, Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, advised him that there would be "five things across your desk every day that you're not prepared for."
Given all that the Vikings have been through under Zimmer's tenure, it was sage advice.
That was pre-COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, all teams are working through multiple changes, from a virtual offseason program to the current ramp-up of Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
Having the contracts executed allows Zimmer, Spielman and the Vikings to lean on continuity in times of uncertainty.
"Well obviously it's a really good positive that we've worked together this long," Zimmer said. "Sometimes people would call it a negative, but Rick and I have a great relationship. We see things, really, through the same eyes 99 percent of the time. Very, very rarely do we ever argue or get in a situation like that. He can be hard-headed. I can be hard-headed. But at the end of the day we know that we both have to work extremely well together, and we certainly do."
Spielman added: "I think it starts with the ownership group and keeping the continuity. I think that's very important. I think as we're going through some of these new challenges that we have to face that everybody has worked together so long, and the culture that we have in this building plays a critical piece to our success. Everybody in their respective areas, I think, are the best in the NFL. We have a very unique staff, everybody is skilled at what they do, and I wouldn't be in the position I am without all those people working and being experts in their areas."
2. Update on Dalvin
Now that those two contracts are resolved, the focus for Spielman turns to continuing to work on a deal with Dalvin Cook, who is set to enter the fourth and final year of his rookie deal.
Spielman declined to go into business details, but he did say, "I know how important Dalvin Cook is, and I know we've been working closely with his agent, and we'll continue to work to try to see if there's a deal that we feel is not only fair to Dalvin but fair to us, as well."
Asked if Cook would practice without a new contract, Spielman said, "I can't predict the future."
"I just know where we're at now, and we're working extremely hard with him and his agent on trying to come to a common place where we can get him locked up," Spielman said.
3. Supporting Pierce
Michael Pierce was a big part of the Vikings plans for 2020 and beyond. The 6-foot, 340-pound defensive tackle was the first player that Minnesota signed in free agency.
Health concerns, however, place Pierce in a "high-risk" category if he suffers a coronavirus infection. He has opted out for this season.
Spielman and Zimmer made clear they support Pierce's decision.
"I know that it was difficult for Michael … but I also understand that our organization puts the health and safety of our players first, and we have always done that, and we'll always continue to do that," Spielman said. "I've told him, 'We respect your decision for that, and we want to make sure that your health and safety always comes first.' "
Zimmer said: "The big thing, Michael called and he explained to us his situation, as far as having asthma, and a couple of years ago he had pneumonia, so it just wasn't safe for him to play.
"Really, honestly, if a player doesn't think he's safe and should do this, I'm with him 100 percent, but we'll figure it out," Zimmer added. "Without going into too much detail, we've got a plan and will stick to it."
4. Don't expect Zim' to give an inch at practice
Because of the number of returnees on the offensive side of the ball and the turnover for the Vikings at defensive line and cornerback, Zimmer was asked what it is like to enter training camp with the offense "ahead" of the defense.
"Well, we'll just have to see if that happens," he retorted with an underlying fire.
Yes, the defense may have multiple new starters as some important positions, but he does not plan on giving an inch.
In an offseason without preseason games, every practice rep will hold more weight. Zimmer will want his unit to show it plans to stay among the league leaders. That also does not mean he is not welcoming the rare offensive continuity.
"Anytime you can have continuity with your coaching staff, with the players, the same basic terminology schemes, the same quarterback," Zimmer said. "This will be my third year with the same one, I guess it is now.
"All those things help, having guys understanding each other so there's a lot more non-verbal communication a lot of the times with guys when they've been through it," Zimmer added. "Just like when we were fortunate enough to have the defense together for a long time. There was a lot of non-verbal communication that went on with those players, so I think it's great. I think they're going to go out, they're going to work real hard just like they always have and continue to try and get better each and every day."