Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Okay, I think we finished up on a good note today. It was important to me that the guys came out here with some energy and worked hard. It was good to have the alumni players come out for the BBQ. Like I told the team, it's important to me that we honor the guys that have come before us and allowed us to continue to do what we love to do. So, that was nice to have those guys out here. I think we had a good spring. We’ve still got a long ways to go from where we need to be, but I thought the new things we looked at on defense and the installation on offense and the way that we paid emphasis on special teams was good. So, looking forward to get back to having a great training camp here and a little time off and get ready to go for season.
Q: Do you think there’ll be few days where you eliminate football during the break?
A: That's a good question. Typically, I try to do that. But like this morning, I had Nick [Rallis], our assistant linebacker coach, put a bunch of teams on an iPad for me, and some other things that I'm looking at. So, I'll go through the cut ups from the spring and some of the things that we did. Today, I'm probably going to be done with football today. But I know that I'm sitting back there in Kentucky, I'll probably get the iPad out a decent amount.
Q: Is it something that that jumps in your mind even if the intent is to take the whole day off?
A: Yeah, I mean you can't get away from it too much, especially if you're around here now. You’re getting a chance to get away a little bit. I think that helps to not be as focused on football as you really want to be. I was thinking about that this morning just, ‘Okay, I’ve got to make sure that I have this because there's something I want to look at here.’ There's some I will look at there and so I put a bunch of stuff in my bag today.
Q: How do you feel about where the offense is at?
A: Well, right now the defense is ahead of the offense just because of the fact that they've been together for so long and we have good players as well. I like a lot of things. I think I have a good feel of we who we can be offensively and the strengths that we have with the personnel and also some of the weaknesses that we may end up having to try to avoid. So, I think that has helped, kind of figure out exactly where we are on the offense. I talked to both Kevin [Stefanski] and Gary [Kubiak] this morning about their evaluations in the spring and how I see things, how they see things, and we talked some about personnel as well.
Q: What have you enjoyed most just about having Gary Kubiak on the staff and working with him the last few months?
A: It’s been outstanding for me because we can go back and talk about Dallas and San Francisco, the way that the offense has been installed, all the things with Mike when he was working for Mike Shanahan and the things that Mike used to tell him when he was a coordinator. This morning I talked to him about some head coach things that when you were in Houston, what did you do, or Denver or whatever. He’s an unbelievably great person. He's an excellent, excellent football coach. I think he does a great job, not only with the offense, but quarterbacks as well. And so it's been really, really good.
Q: What are the challenges of having a multiple year starter at quarterback when it comes to breaking old habits?
A: Well, I think it's important that you can help them with a lot of those things with scheme. I think Kirk [Cousins] had a really good spring. I think he did some really good things and some of the things that we felt like he needed to work on, he was working on them. We gave him a lot of different looks, things that
people attacked us with with their defenses last year. We put some stuff in just so we can get some earlier looks at it and not wait until Week One when we're playing Atlanta or whatever. It's like every player, there's certain ways you want things done, and you're going to coach them into doing those things. They're all really receptive to coaching and the way that you try to get them better and that's really what we try to do with everybody.
Q: Are things happening more quickly than it would with a more youthful squad?
A: Well, typically we have less mistakes, because if you put something new in, you have less mistakes because they've been doing it for so long and they've communicated for a long time. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks being able to target the defensive line, LJ [Linval Joseph] wasn't out there, but the secondary guys are pretty much the same guys. So, they’re good communicators and that helps a lot. And really, they're smart guys, so that helps as well.
Q: When you’re using different defenses is it to get Kirk Cousins different looks or to install on your defense?
A: Well, yeah, we look at them. But there's been some times we put some coverage periods in that other teams are running so he can get a look, so the receivers can get a look in. So, it's a little bit of both, probably a little more for them. But it's good for us too. These guys have been running the same stuff for five years coverage-wise, so it's good for them. It's good for me to look at some other aspects of coverages and things like that.
Q: What was your message to players in terms of staying in shape and things you wanted them to do between now and the start of training camp?
A: Yeah, I don't really want to talk about what I talked to the players about. They know what I expect.
Q: Does that make you more confident knowing that it will eventually work itself out, the difference between the offense and defense right now?
A: Some of the things they’re doing are very hard on us, which is great for us defensively. But yeah, we are a little bit ahead of them and some of the terminology is new for the offense. It's not really new as much for us on defense. And I guess when I say that, they might give us some formation that we haven't seen and our guys can adjust to it just because they've seen it and done it before, maybe not this spring, but they've seen it and done it before. So that's kind of what I mean. They don't fool us much by formations whereas maybe for newer [guys], we'd have a hard harder time lining up too.
Q: How has Holton Hill progressed this spring?
A: I hope so. These young players, they all got to come along fast. He's another guy that we need to get him focused in on what exactly we want him to get better at and he's got a lot of work to do too.
Q: Will you use some of this time to figure out how you’re going to use guys in preseason games?
A: Yeah, I probably won't worry too much about that yet until we get back to camp because so many things happen. You get injuries but when we get back probably after five or six days, we'll sit down and I'll talk to the offensive guys and see how they feel about how much work do we need against somebody else and kind of go from there.
Q: How is Gary Kubiak helping Kevin Stefanski?
Yeah, I think they work together really good. I mean, just sitting in the rooms with them, the way they communicate and Kevin [Stefanski] will have his own take on things but Gary [Kubiak] will be able to help him with certain things, no different than when I was a first coordinator. I remember [Bill] Parcells yelling at me a lot. Actually, I was already a coordinator before then, but he would yell at me a lot.
Q: You talked about running the ball more…
A: I want it to be balanced.
Q: How has the depth of your running back corps looked this spring?
A: I think it's good. I think [Dalvin] Cook has had a really, really good spring. Gary [Kubiak] and I were talking about him this morning. He looks really, really good, especially the things we're trying to do in the running game. [Mike] Boone and Roc Thomas, and [Alexander] Mattison, they're all still learning. So, we got some work to do but I think C.J. Ham’s had a nice spring.
Q: What do you do defensively that allows you to overcome the disadvantages of undersized players, specifically at defensive tackle?
A: I don't think we go into anything looking for an undersized guy. We're always looking for size. He [Hercules Mata’afa] was a guy that was a playmaker in college that we had to find. First we tried him at linebacker when he came in and then that was completely foreign to him, so we moved him back to his to his college position. I think Andre [Patterson] does a great job teaching them. My opinion, he’s the best defensive line coach in the NFL. I think his work with his technique and getting the hands and the feet and everything he has to do in the right place and the way we try to teach him how to rush the quarterback, I think that's part of it as well. I've said this before, and I'm not comparing him, but when we drafted Geno Atkins in Cincinnati or when we brought in La’Roi Glover when I was in Dallas, these were guys that we thought, ‘Okay, these guys can be nickel pass rushers. Right. And so they can be a little bit more undersized.’ Geno eventually became a full-time player. So, there's certain roles for guys that you look for. I think [for] Rick [Spielman] and the scouts, it's always what's your vision for the player, how do you see this player? That's kind of what we try to do with our guys.
Q: What do you see in Davion Davis?
A: Yeah, I think he's a good football player. He obviously is still on a lot of places in the lineup and where to go but he's been a guy that's caught our eye right from rookie mini camp. [He] really catches the ball, works hard. I think he's a pretty smart guy, but you see the wiggle on him as well.
Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor
Q: What do you think of the progress that the offense has made this spring?
A: I think we've got a good spring. And we got a long way to go, but I think our work has been really good. We've taken some steps forward as a group and all, in all areas, in my opinion. I think the key now is that, that we come back, we pick up where we left off. We make sure we don't have to start again, let's pick up where we left off and go from there. But the works been good, it's been a really good offseason.
Q: What has getting back on the football field been like for you personally?
A: Good. It's been good. You know, it’s a different role, but I'm really enjoying it. I mean, I get to watch guys coach. I'm watching all the good young coaches on the offensive staff, being with Kevin [Stefanksi] every day, and watching him do the things I did for 30 something years and then sitting down with him after practice and talking through situations. Being around Coach Zimmer, me and Zim have battled for many, many years, and now we get to battle every day in practice. But it's been really good. I've enjoyed it. Great organization, good people, and got some good football players. So I'm looking forward to it.
Q: Have you helped Kevin Stefanski form his offensive philosophy, seeing that he’s a younger offensive coordinator?
A: We got together as a group in the offseason, kind of put our stuff together. It was kind of crossing paths and various things. But we've come up with a Minnesota offense is what we've done. Basically I'm just with him every day, every minute, in meetings with the coaches. We go in, he teaches, and I'm in there watching him teach and what we do, and then we sit down and talk, because he's doing things that I've done for a long, long time. Mike Shanahan used to sit in his office and watch me teach with a monitor, and I remember those days, in a lot of the ways I'm sitting there watching Kevin teach every day. So I really enjoy it and am very impressed with his work ethic and his passion and his ability to reach people in a lot of different ways.
Q: When you sit down with him, how much overlap is there between the philosophies you have brought and the ones Kevin has brought?
A: There's a lot. Kevin has kind of has grown up with some old west coast guys, with Chilly [Brad Childress] and some of that, and Pat [Shurmur]. So we talked the same language pretty quick from that standpoint. Now obviously we're trying to figure out what are our guys do best and how we're going to get [Adam] Thielen and [Stefon] Diggs and Rudy [Kyle Rudolph] [the football], we got to figure those things out. How do we get them the ball, how do we do what's best for our football team? So that's what we're doing every day.
Q: Does it make it difficult to evaluate the offensive side of the ball in practice given how much continuity the defensive side of the ball has had?
A: No, I think that’s just real. They’re way ahead, they’ve been running this scheme for a long time and been doing really, really good [with the scheme]. But like I told Kevin and I told our players, it gives us a chance to be really good, because when you go against good people every day, and our defense is excellent, it gives you a chance to be as good as you can possibly be. Everything that happens out here every day for us is real, and I want to make good progress, but we have to be on our toes each and every day to be able to find ways to move the football. That will give us a chance to be as good as we can be.
Q: Has it been an adjustment for you, to be an assistant instead of the head coach, to stand back instead of lead the team?
A: No, it’s been good. As the head coach you do that in a lot of ways. Rick [Dennison] called some plays for me from that standpoint. It is a little different perspective because you’re looking at the big picture and the big group, and obviously I’m with the quarterbacks a lot. But no, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been really good, not weird at all.
Q: Is there anything you have discussed with Mike Zimmer to help him as a head coach?
A: Coach Zimmer does an excellent job. He’s so organized and detailed in situational football, so he does a great job from that standpoint. I try to keep my mouth shut and do my job. He comes down and likes to sit and talk football a lot, and I really appreciate that, because he and I have been through quite a few battles in this league. I’m just really proud of the fact that he’s giving me a chance to be a part of it, and hopefully I can help out.
Q: In all your years working with quarterbacks, to have someone like Kirk Cousins, who is a four-year full-time starter, what are the challenges? Are there habits you would like to see him change, and is that difficult this far into his career?
A: That’s a great question. I’ve coached a lot of quarterbacks, and they’re all different personality wise, what they do best, how they handle the group. I think for me the biggest thing is me watching Kirk, getting to know Kirk better each day. I had a little cheat sheet when I came in here, talking to Coach Shanahan, who worked with him for years. That’s one thing Kirk and I talk about every day, like today, talking about practice and some of the things I saw watching him work with the group. It’s about me getting to know him as good as I possibly can and then working my tail off for him to put him in the best possible position to be successful.
Q: Is there anything about Kirk that has surprised you?
A: Surprised me, no. The thing that jumps out to me with Kirk is that he’s very accurate, extremely accurate player, and plays the game on the move really, really well. We got a lot of young kids around him right now. He has some guys out, so he’s been really challenged to help these kids get lined up and that. And that’s good for a quarterback, with some of these guys missing some time. I’m very impressed, and like I said, I just want to do everything I can to get him in the best possible position for our football team to be successful.
Q: Do you get the sense that Kirk’s drive to win is ratcheting up?
A: That’s one of the first things that he said to me when we talked back a few months ago when I got here. He said, ‘Coach, I’ve had some good things happen in my career, and had some good numbers, but I want to win.’ And that’s what we all want to do. That’s what you’re searching for with your football team, and if you got people thinking that way, you got a chance to get there. I’ve been very impressed with that. He pushes himself every day, works had at it. First one here in the morning, those types of things. He gives you everything he has, and that’s all you can ask for.
Q: What do you think of Sean Mannion’s spring?
A: I’ve been very impressed with Sean. He came from a championship football team, you can see that in the way he prepares. He pushes Kirk from the standpoint of getting here in the morning, let’s get ready for practicing, and he’s doing a lot of good things on the field. I’ve been impressed with the group. Kyle [Sloter] is doing a good job, and our young kid [Jake Browning] has done a really good job. I know he had a bad play there at the end of practice, but we’ll move past that one. I think it’s a good group and I think they can all help Kirk do his job too.
Q: On a lot of your former teams your number three pass catcher has often been a tight end. Do you see that translating here as the number three pass catcher battle heats up in August?
A: I think it all depends on how we end up. Let’s see. But I think we had a chance to have a good group of tight ends. Obviously when you play with tight ends in this business you have a chance to play against base defense, not so much nickel and dime to talk a little football verbiage there. But I think you also got to look at the fact that [Chad Beebe] has had probably as good of an offseason as any player that I know on our side of the ball. He’s got a chance to be a really good player for us, so it gives us flexibility to bounce around personnel wise.