*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
Looking back on the season, I thought this football team did some very good things. Winning the division, 13-3, winning a playoff game. Unfortunately, we didn't reach the ultimate goal. I'm still proud of how this team went about their business this year and the things they were able to accomplish. The fortitude they had going throughout the course of the season and really the chemistry they had in the locker room. It's disappointing to lose but we're going to try to figure out every possible way how we can improve so that we move forward next year.
Q: Did you know you had a special defense heading into this season?
A: I think I knew we had a nucleus of defensive guys that had played pretty well in the past. You never really know how the season is going to unfold. I've had teams that I thought were going to be really good and they didn't play good together. This team is a pretty special group of defensive guys that have played together for quite a while now. There's some things we have to get better at. I have to do a better job in some areas as far as maybe sticking to some things too much because we're successful. One of things we planned to do, first of all, we're going to self-scout. See the things we're good at and plays that hurt us. Then, we're going to look at how we can try to take this thing to another level.
Q: Which specific areas can this defense improve in?
A: Yeah, there is, I don't want to get too specific with it. There's some things that I really want to look at in this offseason. There's some other teams I want to study that have done a good job. I want to go back and evaluate a lot of our rush situations to see if we can improve in some of those areas. Go back and see why we were good on third downs. Our job as coaches is to, number one, put the players in the best position possible to win. Number two, to try to continually get better, figure out new ways to do things. I think that's how you come up with new concepts, new ideas, new ways to attack offenses.
Q: What are your plans for the offensive coordinator position?
A: I'm in the process now of working through that.
Q: Is there a certain time you would like to have that position filled?
A: Yeah, as soon as possible. I'm going to take my time and make sure we get the right thing.
Q: What are the chances of promoting someone from within?
A: Well, I think we have a lot of good offensive coaches. But, we're going to work through the process and see where it all goes.
Q: Would you like to stick with the same offensive philosophy or bring in new ideas?
A: I always embrace new ideas. To me, number one, with this coaching staff, I think they did an incredible job, not just the offense but defense, special teams, the whole bit. They had a great chemistry. To me, that's going to be very important. What kind of chemistry we have with the other coaches, the communication with all the other coaches, and then the next thing is to try and get the best guy.
Q: How unique of a situation is this to get to the NFC title game and still have so many questions at quarterback?
A: I guess it's unique. But, it's part of the process in the NFL. You work through it and you go about your business. I remember my first year here, when I got here we had like three names that were potential starters on the defensive board. That's why you have the draft and free agency, all those things. So, we'll work through all that process. I'm really not prepared to comment on it after we got back at 3:00 a.m. yesterday. So, we're just going to work through it, just like we always do, and go from there.
Q: Has Case Keenum earned the right to be the starter next year?
A: I think I just said that we're going to work through the process.
Q: But your thoughts on Keenum specifically?
A: I'm going to work through the process, just like I always do. We're going to evaluate all the players, we're going to evaluate everybody and go about our business like we always do.
Q: Do you know Teddy Bridgewater's contract situation?
A: I do not. I don't have any idea. I would be guessing if I said what I think it is. But, I honestly don't know. You'd have to ask Rick [Spielman] that.
Q: Were you hoping to see more of Teddy on the field than you were able to?
A: Well, obviously, we would have liked to see him more on the field. But, quite honestly, for him to get on the field is an unbelievable achievement. When this injury happened, I can go through it, we researched this injury. There was 24 of these similar types of injuries through all sports, half of them never came back. I think the earliest one that anybody ever came back was 24 months. So, for him to even get to that point to where he was, and be able to come out and practice and compete, get in a game, was a true credit to him. Would I have liked to see him more on the field? Yeah.
Q: Knowing the extent of this injury, do you have to take that into consideration when evaluating him?
A: Well, I think he's doing good now. He's at the point where he can play. You just have to figure out where's he at because obviously we didn't get to see him through games.
Q: What about Sam Bradford? Do you think he's past the knee injuries?
A: Well, I talked to him yesterday. I think he is. We had some conversations between me and him, but he feels like he is, so we'll just have to see how he continues to improve.* *
Q: Did the Eagles point out things that you need to improve?
A: Yes. I mean not only them, but anybody that had success against us in the past. I think one of the things I meant was that we'd been great at third downs and they got after us on third down. So, we need to figure out, 'Okay, why were they and how could we do this?'. That's why I said I could have made some better calls. Sometimes when you're sticking with things and it's been successful for you, you continue to do it and maybe I did it a little bit too long. That's all a part of the process of self-scouting, evaluation, and things as you go forward.
Q: Do you know the rest of your coaching staff? Is everybody staying?
A: I believe so, yes. I think everybody will be here.
Q: Do you see anyone else leaving?
A: I don't believe so no.* *
Q: What will the offseason be like for you?
A: Well, we're a little bit late now in the process a little bit. But the first thing is make sure all the coaches and everything is done. We'll try and renew a lot of them and that's the first thing. The senior bowl is going on, so we'll start working on free agents. We'll starting working on the draft and the self scouts. I'm trying to outline everything from now until OTA's, winter conditioning when they come back.
Q: Can you talk about Pat Shurmur and him taking the Giants job?
A: Pat did a great job. I'm happy for him and his family. It's another great opportunity. I think he's going to get an opportunity to work with Dave Gettleman who is a really good football guy. We thanked him yesterday for the success that he's helped us with and we hope he's successful in the future, except when they play the Vikings.
Q: How much better do you think the offensive line was this year to handle all of the shuffling?
A: I felt like our personnel department did a really good job in getting guys in here. I thought Tony Sparano did a really good job. We started out the season with basically five different starters on the offensive line. Those guys played together, they were good athletes. The guys that we brought in had the right demeanor and attitude. I was able to talk to a couple of them before they left and they really liked how things went. Obviously, not the injuries and the way they went, but we move guys around a lot in that spot because you can only dress seven on game day. It's important to be able to have some flexibility there.
Q: Why do you think they were able to do what they were, despite new pieces?
A: I think we had better players. Sometimes it's simple. It's that.
Q: Was there anything different done to stay so healthy on defense this year?
A: One of the things a lot of the players talked about yesterday was we had a new strength coach this year, Mark Uyeyama. They felt like this is the strongest they've been, best strength coach they've had here. A guy that has done an unbelievable job so the guys have him an awful lot of credit. I think that is part of it. Part of it is luck. Some of these injuries are unlucky. The one that happened to [Pat] Elflein the other night was an unlucky one. The one that happened to [Nick] Easton was unlucky. Part of it is luck.
Q: Will Pat Elflein require offseason surgery?
Q: Are there others that will require surgery?
A: Yes, there are lots of guys that will have surgeries. Nothing major.
Q: How is Dalvin Cook progressing?
A: I know this is layman's terms, but Eric Sugarman, the trainer, said he's doing great. He said, "The kid is doing really great."
Q: How much different do you think the offense would have had Dalvin Cook the entire season?
A: It's hard to speculate. I think Dalvin is an unbelievable player. I think you saw that in the beginning games. Am I taking something away from the way Jerick [McKinnon] and Latavius [Murray] played if I speculate on that? I don't know. I thought those two guys came in and did a really nice job. I think Dalvin is a tremendous, tremendous football player. Do I think he would have made a difference? Yes.
Q: What was Pat Elflein's injury?
A: He had an ankle.
Q: What did Pat Elflein do to his ankle?
A: He hurt it.
Q: In a way that needs surgery?
A: Probably, because I just answered her question.
Q: Have you thought about what you are going to do with your quarterback decisions?
A: Honestly, not right now. Have I thought about it? Yes. But quite honestly, up until 3:00 am the other night when the game got over, my whole focus was on the now and not so much the future. Rick [Spielman] and I talked about that earlier. We said let's just go through the season. Let's figure it out after the season. We'll go through that process and go from there and see how that goes. We are just going to work through it. The other thing I wanted to say, too, is our fans this year were unbelievable. I got some texts about how through the playoff game and all of the people doing the Skol chants last week and all of that stuff. Our fans were unbelievable the way they helped this football team out. They talked about bringing the whole state together, the state of Minnesota and Vikings fans throughout the world. That made me feel good that we were able to bring a bunch of people and try to work for something for a common goal. Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish it for them so that is one of the disappointments.
Q: Do you plan to attend the Super Bowl or plan to have any role here in Minneapolis?
Q: Will you be back at your ranch?
Q: This is the final press conference here at Winter Park. What has this facility meant to you and how excited are you to move to Eagan?
A: I haven't been over there since the groundbreaking ceremony. One of those deals where I am not going to go in there until I know I'm going to be there. Obviously, we made this place do. We were over populated here. Apparently the new place is outstanding. One of the things I want to do is put up another one of those banners. We put some up on the other side. I come in here and I look at Bud Grant's picture up there on the other end of this fieldhouse every day.
Q: What kind of a candidate would Kevin Stefanski be?
A: I think he's good. Kevin is a very smart guy. I need to sit down and talk to him. I need to sit down and talk to some other people and figure out what the best thing is for us moving forward. This happens. When you're successful, this happens every year. I hope it continues to happen. I hope I have a coaching tree that is 200 people long. It just the way life goes. When you're successful, people want your coaches. I think that is great. That means you're doing something right.
Q: Offensively, what do you want to see improvement with?
A: It is kind of hard to put in layman's terms, but I want to continue to do a lot of the things we've done. I don't ever want to take a square peg and put it in a round hole. I want to try to do what is best for the players. I think there are some things that we can continually build on from what we've done. Then moving forward just like talking about defense, we have to think there are things we can continue to create to put more pressure on the defense. I know that is a long winded answer for not really saying much, but I have some thoughts.