Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
I told the team this morning that Matt Cassel will be the starter going into the season. We cut 14 players yesterday, still have one more to go before tomorrow. It's always a tough time because these guys came in, they busted their rear ends, they did everything we asked them to do, so hopefully we'll be able to get a couple of them back. As far as the Kansas City game, I thought we did some good things. Defensively, it was our best performance so far of the preseason. We covered much better, we rushed the quarterback, we've got to be better in our rush lanes than what we were, I saw some improvement in this ballgame. Offensively, obviously, the 97-yard drive was a great starter coming out. We've got to do better in our pass protection than what we have been. The quarterback is getting hit too much and that includes the running backs, we're not just talking about the offensive line. We have to as a football team, we have to continue to be smarter than what we are. We tried to run the ball out of the end zone and we gave up field position. I talk to our football team all the time about being a smart football team, field position, and so when we have field position we have to keep it. The turnovers helped a lot, the turnovers in the red zone are huge obviously, because it keeps them from getting points. The last thing that I want to talk about before I let you guys go is this Pro Football Focus thing, I know everybody wants to get the scoop on this but quite honestly there's not really anybody, I look at the grades and I can't tell you what a 0.7 is or anything like that, but I know that the people that are grading our games and our defenses and our offenses, they don't know if the tackle gets beat inside, if we weren't sliding out to the nickel or who our guys are supposed to cover. I guarantee they don't know who is in our blitz package and what they are supposed to do. I would just ask everybody to take that with a grain of salt, including our fans. We as coaches get paid a whole bunch of money to do the jobs that we do, evaluate the players that we evaluate and grade them how we grade them and not based on someone else. That's off my chest, go ahead.
Q: What stood out to you most with Matt Cassel that made him the guy?
A: Well Matt did not do anything to lose the job this preseason. I think he's played great. The team has a lot of confidence in him, they feel good about his veteran leadership and presence. I had to think about the whole football team, it wasn't just about the quarterbacks. I've said this before, it's not always the best player at that position and I'm not saying Matt's not, but any position it's how everything works together and at this stage in where we are at right now I feel like that's the best thing to do. I told Teddy (Bridgewater) this morning that I'm so happy that he's here with us, I'm glad he's the guy we picked, I've loved everything he's done and it wasn't anything that Teddy did or didn't do but Teddy will be still, in my estimation, a great player for this franchise for years to come.
Q: How did Teddy Bridgewater react to that?
A: Fine, he was fine. I start thinking back when he was at Louisivlle, he didn't start his first three games, they went 0-3 and he won 25 after that. He's been in this situation before as a young guy and he'll be fine.
Q: Did Matt surprise you with how he took this team over?
A: Well Matt's improved a lot since we got here in the OTAs and what he's done since spring ball. Scott Turner has done a great job with him. I think he feels comfortable with the plays and the system that we're running and so I think that helped a lot, but he's improved quite a bit since we first started working with these guys.
Q: How do you improve someone like him who has been around the league for so long?
A: I think every player can improve with technique and coaching and being in the right system. I keep going back to guys that supposedly were busts that we had in our career that come in and play good for other teams, or for us. They just get in the right situation and right coaching, right guys around them, all of those things really help guys and I know that veteran players really appreciate being coached, being taught the right things to do and extending their careers, really.
Q: Is there anything about Matt Cassel that really stood out to you early on?
A: His study.
Q: Just the way he studies? Teddy Bridgewater played well, but it seemed like Matt Cassel knew the offense so well.
A: Well as you know, he's such a veteran guy, he's been through a lot of different systems and a lot of different things that he's had to learn, so he had the advantage going in with that, but both of them have studied great so I don't know if that was a factor.
Q: With one more roster move needed to be made is there a possibility of a trade?
A: Well we are looking at everything, honestly. Some of it was the game this week, it's a short week, the injuries that we have, trying to figure out exactly who we need to have for the game and we're always looking for the possibility of trades, possibility of getting more players in here. I talk to the team all the time, we're not competing against the six receivers, we're competing against every receiver in the NFL and the Canadian Football League and wherever we can find guys. However we can put the best football team together for this organization, we're going to do it.
Q: How much busier does this week get with all of the waiver wire possibilities and trade possibilities?
A: Well, it's not so much for me, Rick (Spielman), the scouts and the pro personnel guys they've been on top of it for a while. They get in there and they kind of have an idea of who might be released and have already graded most all of these guys. They do a great job and they are on top of it so that if something does happen, we're prepared as opposed to being caught off guard.
Q: What is Mistral Raymond's injury and will he come back for injured reserve?
A: We don't know yet but we released him yesterday.
Q: What is his injury?
A: Something with his leg.
Q: How did you evaluate the safeties' play on Saturday and do you have an clarity at that position?
A: Yeah, I have a little bit of clarity now, but we're going to look at them again this week. It'll be similar. We had a couple of guys get hurt so we didn't get to see some of those guys but there are some things that (Andrew) Sendejo does good and some things obviously we've got to correct with him, (Robert) Blanton same thing. (Chris) Crocker didn't play many plays but he's starting to get his legs underneath him back to where he looked like when I had him. Obviously, Harrison (Smith) did fine.
Q: How did Robert Blanton do?
A: Good. There are some technique things that we have to work with him but he's a smart guy, did some good things.
Q: How tough is it going to be for Jamarca Sanford seeing as how he missed the offseason work?
A: Well it's like everything when there are a bunch of guys fighting for a spot, the more you can do to get on evaluation the better it is. We don't just evaluate on the games. Now the games are a big part of it because we're playing against somebody else and can they carry what we're teaching them in practice to the game but we evaluate all of these guys every single day. That's the number one thing that we want to get out of training camp is getting the right 53 guys here on this football team and then trying to see if they can try to do what we're kind of coaching them to do.
Q: Do you feel better that Chris Crocker is there as a guy that you know what he can do?
A: Yeah, and I've known him for quite a while \so I'm comfortable with Chris as far as being able to do what we're asking him to do. Part of it was, it was good for the other guys around to listen to him to see how he studies and he studied better for this game than he did in the first ball game. He was really the only guy that I've had that came here. Those guys can say, "Hey he's just in a bad mood today or whatever." He can kind of smooth things over that way.
Q: Where is Chase Ford at physically now that you have him back?
A: Well obviously, we've got to see him on the field but from the rehab reports that we've been getting, he can do everything. We'll have to see what kind of condition he is in, his recall for the plays. He's been out here and watching but that doesn't mean that he knows the plays and being able to execute them and what kind of blocking he does. These next 13 days will be important for him.
*Q: How do you approach the situation if Matt Cassel has a bad game? *
A: I'm glad you asked that question because I thought about this answer. We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position – if you perform, you play. If you don't perform then the next guy will get an opportunity at some point. When we decide to do that, we sit down and discuss it. That position, just like the outside linebacker spot, we have an expectation of performance and as long as those guys perform, they play.
Q: How much lobbying is going on with the other coaches for the 53-man roster?
A: Not so much lobbying, really. The one thing about having a good veteran staff is they understand there are some tough cuts made, they understand that we're trying to do what's best for the football team and they've all been through these kind of things before. You fight for a guy and it'll happen more next week, I'm sure, but you fight for a guy because you feel strongly about him and that's a good thing. You want your coaches to stick up for these guys and say, "We can't let this guy go, we have to him." At the end of the day when we make the decision, we all walk out of the room just like we do with Rick and I.
Q: Any difference for you going through this as a head coach versus a coordinator?
A: Probably, a little bit. I'd like to keep a lot more defensive guys, but no, I've been through this a long time, too and I've seen a lot of the same cuts and I'm no different than the assistant coaches. I feel a bond to a lot of these players because of how hard they've worked, how much they've put into it and if they don't get a chance to play for us hopefully they get a chance to play for somebody else. You're always happy for the players when they get another opportunity with someone else.
Q: How many spots are really up for grabs this week on the final 53?
A: Well right now we have from 76 to 53, so I don't know, honestly. I couldn't tell you.
Q: Are you going to wait until after Thursday to name your starting middle linebacker?
A: I have a pretty good idea on it right now, but I'm going to just wait until after this week and see, but I have a good idea on it.
*Q: What's the plan with the quarterback position on Thursday? *
A: Well I haven't told anybody yet so I'll probably wait and tell them first and then I will tell you all.