The notebook has grown tattered over the years, and the advice inside is well-worn.
It certainly was worth Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer moving from Winter Park to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center because it contains quotes and advice from former Cowboys Head Coach Bill Parcells.
Zimmer worked as the Cowboys defensive coordinator from 2003-06, and he remembers when Dallas first hired the well-respected coach.
“Every day in the team meeting, I would take notes just like the players of the things he would say,” Zimmer said of Parcells on Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting in Orlando. “We’d go to the team meeting and then we’d have a special teams meeting, so I’d walk back to my office, and he would … follow me in my office.
“Some days he’d want to talk about whatever – baseball, golf, boxing, horse racing, whatever,” Zimmer continued. “But he’d always say, ‘Write this down. When you’re a head coach, remember this.’ So I would write all those things down. I’ve got a little book of it.”
When asked if he could disclose any specifics gleaned from Parcells over the years, Zimmer said the veteran coach advised him to keep his addresses to the team brief.
“[He said], ‘Never talk to the team more than five minutes because they don’t listen anyway. Five minutes is all you need to talk to them. Get your point across, and then go,’ ” Zimmer recounted of a note written down years ago.
“He had nicknames for everybody,” Zimmer added with a chuckle. “Mine was all right. Mine was Mikey.”
Since Zimmer received his first shot at a head coaching gig in 2014, he’s continued to value Parcells’ words – whether in the notebook or over regular phone calls with his former boss, current mentor and friend.
From 2014-16, there were 21 new head coaches named across the league. Including Zimmer, only nine remain in their respective positions: Jay Gruden (Redskins), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Dan Quinn (Falcons), Todd Bowles (Jets), Doug Pederson (Eagles), Adam Gase (Dolphins), Dirk Koetter (Buccaneers) and Hue Jackson (Browns).
Six head coaches were hired prior to the 2017 season, and all remain.
While Zimmer has been at the helm just four years, he’s already among some of the league’s longer-tenured coaches. Asked what advice he would pass on to first-time head coaches, Zimmer again referenced Parcells in emphasizing preparedness.
“Parcells would tell me, ‘You’re going to have five things come across this day that you’re not prepared for.’ I think that’s true,” Zimmer said. “There’s things that are going to happen, and you’re going to have to navigate around it.
“Your best quarterback, who is your franchise quarterback, is going to get hurt, and what are you going to do then?” Added Zimmer, who had previously discussed speaking with Parcells almost immediately after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic knee injury.
Zimmer stressed the importance of surrounding oneself with people who can help. He credited Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Executive VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski.
“[They] can take a lot off my plate, because I like to coach. I don’t want to be CEO,” Zimmer said. “I think those things are important.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his session with media:
*1. Approach to play-calling *
Zimmer in the past has made reference to eventually delegating defensive play-calling responsibilities to Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.
When asked if that’s something he may be considering in 2018, Zimmer said he isn’t sure.
“I would like to get away from it at some point,” Zimmer said, adding that he doesn’t want to be a “second-guess coach” on the sideline.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Zimmer added.
2. Running back room in 2018
The 49ers recently signed Jerick McKinnon in free agency, but the Vikings are returning Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook, who got off to a hot start as a rookie in 2017 before tearing his ACL in Week 4.
Zimmer said he is looking forward to having the combination of Murray and Cook.
“It’s good to have two different styles of backs,” Zimmer said. “Latavius, I thought he came in and did a great job. I love talking to him, and his demeanor, and everything about him. He’s a good short-yardage guy, good goal-line guy, he had a lot of explosive runs for us after Dalvin [was sidelined].”
Zimmer also gave the media an update on Cook, who he said is “ahead of schedule” in his rehab process.
“I think that he’ll be doing some things in OTAs; he won’t be doing everything,” Zimmer said. “But we’ll start getting back into football a little bit as we go.”
3. Well-wishes for Bridgewater
Zimmer is excited about adding Kirk Cousins to the team for 2018, but he expressed the difficulty of parting ways with Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford. Zimmer most frequently was asked about Bridgewater who recently signed with the Jets.
“The first thing is, I love Teddy Bridgewater – the person, the player, the commitment that he has to being great. It was more the question of [his] health for us,” Zimmer said. “But he is one guy that I would never, ever bet against.
“He’s a kid who works really hard, comes in every day with a smile on his face,” Zimmer said. “I love being around him, I love the way he learns, the way he listens, everything about him.”
Zimmer was later asked again about Bridgewater, and he recounted the disappointment when Bridgewater suffered the non-contact injury just prior to the 2016 season.
“Number one, I felt bad for Teddy when it happened, and our franchise and our organization,” Zimmer said. “It was a year-and-a-half before he was able to get back, but by the same token, he was quicker than anybody else who’s had that injury to come back. Yeah, it was difficult.”
4. Keeping tabs on Terence
As Zimmer commented on current Vikings players and those who have moved on, he was asked if cornerback Terence Newman will be returning in Purple for the 2018 season.
Newman, who will turn 40 in September, has spent time with Zimmer on three different teams.
“I talked to Terence about a week ago. We’ll have another conversation in about a week and see where he’s at and what he wants to do,” Zimmer said. “I don’t want to speak for him. I think he’s still thinking about it.”