EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Head Coach Mike Zimmer swapped out his gray Vikings hooded sweatshirt for a purple quarter zip Tuesday.
He stood in front of a podium instead of a mirror, but reflected on his first season at Minnesota's helm.
The longtime successful defensive coordinator who received his first opportunity as an NFL head coach less than a year before said he appreciated the support he received from Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, General Manager Rick Spielman, the personnel department and his coaching staff.
"Well honestly I never felt overwhelmed from the day I walked in," Zimmer said. "I was really lucky to walk into a place like this that has such a great support group. The people upstairs — the Ownership, Rick and Rob Brzezinski and George (Paton) and (Scott) Studwell and all of those guys — they've helped me in so many different ways. And then I was fortunate enough to have really good people that I could lean on like Norv Turner, who has been through this for quite a bit of time."
Zimmer also thanked the media "for putting up with" him and fans for embracing the approach and culture that he and the staff are trying to instill.
"Are there some things that I would do differently? Sure," Zimmer said. "Did I make some mistakes? Sure. But I felt like each and every day I came to work that I gave this team and the fans and the organization the very best I could give them. I believe in my heart that I'll be even better next year with everything that I do just because I've been through all of these different things."
The Vikings season was one of exciting finishes in wins and a couple of agonizing ends in losses, one that started and ended without allowing an opponent a touchdown, early injuries on offense and later on defense and of responding to challenges. If Zimmer wanted to self-test resiliency, he had ample opportunities.
Spielman said during an interview for Beyond the Gridiron that he was impressed by Zimmer's navigation of tough situations.
"I think the biggest thing that stands out to me this year has been the leadership of Coach Zimmer through all the adversity that we've had to face, that our team had to overcome and still staying very competitive, watching all our young players and a lot of our rookies contributing and being major factors in a lot of the wins we had," Spielman said. "The thing that was a little disappointing was some of the close losses we had that could have went either way, but overall, I know we have a lot of good building blocks in place and we have the right leadership with Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff."
The NFL quickly shifted into its season of change after the 2014 regular season ended Sunday night. Zimmer said Monday "was not a good day for me" because he said coaches he respects — Marc Trestman, Rex Ryan and Mike Smith — were fired by the Bears, Jets and Falcons, respectively.
Zimmer told reporters he emphasized to players that the team had done some good things, but not enough and that "nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, nothing in the NFL stays the same."
"Anything that we did last year, whether it be good or bad, next year will be a different season and there will be different players, different teams that we're playing against, different players on those teams and so things happen so quickly," Zimmer said. "The most important thing for us is that right now that they get away from here for a little bit, they replenish their bodies, they refresh, and get back together as a football team and continue to try to preach the messages like I have up here on these signs, upstairs, that we get back to work and accomplish some of the goals that we want to get done."
SPECULATION TOPICS: The futures of running back Adrian Peterson and linebacker Chad Greenway are likely to be two of the top speculation topics regarding the Vikings this season.
Peterson, who played in the 2014 season opener before being placed on the Commissioner's exempt list, is currently serving a suspension. Greenway wrapped up his ninth season, the final one of his contract.
Zimmer was asked about both players on Tuesday and said Peterson can "add value to any team."
"Adrian was always great with me," Zimmer said. "I think he's a good person, I think, obviously, he's a great running back. If it works out that way, and things work out, and he gets his life in order – that's the most important thing, he gets his life in order – he gets the opportunity to come back, then I will be in his corner whatever the decision is made."
Of Greenway, Zimmer said: "I love Chad. Chad's a good guy. You'd have to ask him, but I think even at his stage in his career, he probably learned some things this year. We asked him to do a lot of different that he probably hasn't done before. He's the kind of guy that we'd like to have. Now, I don't know what's going to happen with him, or anybody else. I would be the first one, if it wasn't going to work out or Chad didn't want to be here, I'd expect that he and I would have the first conversation of anyone. I have total amount of respect for him and I will treat him with the same kind of respect."
TEDDY "IS THE QUARTERBACK": Zimmer said one aspect the Vikings encountered a year ago has been resolved by the play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who set franchise records in wins, starts, completion percentage and passer rating by a rookie.
"Teddy is the quarterback, there's no doubt in my mind," Zimmer said. "I think we're fortunate in the fact that we learned an awful lot about Teddy this year and the progress that he's made. He's still got to get a lot better to get to where we want to go. He's got to improve in the offseason and things like that, but yeah, I think it will allow the focus to move to another spot, other spots, not one spot, but other spots, we've got a lot of spots we've got to get better at. I think that helps solidify probably the number one question that was going on at this point in time last year. Actually this time last year I was getting ready to get beat in a playoff game (as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator).