EAGAN, Minn. – When Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer first were approached about becoming the Vikings co-defensive coordinators, they met together over a week's time to discuss their approach.
The two coaches have been working seamlessly while preparing for the 2020 season.
Patterson and Zimmer spoke to Twin Cities media members via video conference Thursday afternoon and attested that the transition has gone smoothly largely because of their close relationship with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"I've known Adam since he was a little boy. Obviously I've known Mike a long time, too," said Patterson, who first worked with Mike Zimmer at Weber State in the '80s. "Both of us know Mike very well and what he wants. I think that's helped us be able to come together and try to make things as smooth as possible for him, to be as organized as we can, to make sure it's smooth for him."
Adam Zimmer emphasized that working together is "key" in the unique co-coordinator position.
"We've done a good job of communicating since day one, laid out everybody's responsibilities throughout the coaching staff so everyone is on the same page to know what they need to do," he said. "All we're trying to do is get one common goal, and that's to be the best defense we can be and the best defense in the NFL. However we have to divvy that up is what we're going to do."
In addition to their promotions, Patterson and Zimmer will continue coaching the defensive line and linebacker groups, respectively. Patterson reminded that the two have been working together with the front seven since they both joined Minnesota's coaching staff in 2014.
While the additional responsibilities haven't been too much of a jump for Patterson and Zimmer, the 2020 offseason has been an adjustment in more ways than one.
All minicamps and Organized Team Activities were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all 32 NFL teams have been forced to conduct their spring programming virtually. When it became clear early on that coaches and players would spend days in front of a computer rather than on a field, Patterson and Zimmer once again put their heads together.
They asked themselves, "How can we take this perceived negative and turn it into a positive?"
Patterson said the two had "a lot of conversations" around that topic and ultimately decided to change their classroom methodology.
"When we install [the playbook], instead of it being a one-day install where we put it in, the guys go out on the field and execute it, and the next day we come in and install something different, we made it a two-day install," Patterson explained. "On the first day, it was Adam and I installing it, and then we broke off into individual groups and continued to install it.
"Then when we came back the next day, now we're really able to work on [fine-tuning the] little things that go in with each coverage and each front that we installed the day before," he continued.
While Patterson installs with the defensive linemen and linebackers, Zimmer does so with the defensive backs.
During the virtual walk-through of the installed portion, players are expected to be able to repeat the information back in earshot of their teammates.
"It puts the pressure on," Patterson said. "So, to hear them give us back that information the same way that we put it in, I think that was a huge, huge advantage for us. I think our players understand the scheme better today than five or six weeks ago when we first started this, and I think it's because of what we decided to do, using this as an advantage for our guys to learn."
Patterson, who taught math prior to his coaching career, and Zimmer have stepped even more into the role of "teacher" throughout this unique offseason.
"We've taught it and slowed it down, and it's been really good – not only for the young players but even for the veterans," Zimmer said. "They've been able to understand the grand scheme of the defense because they're hearing everybody talk about their own positions. I think that's been good.
"We went into it saying, 'Hey, everybody has to go through this. How are we going to do it the best we can?' " Zimmer added. "We're very happy with the results of how the offseason went, and hopefully we can continue that on as we get back together, whenever that may be."