Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Before I forget I want to thank everybody, all of the media here, for putting up with me. I know sometimes I'm not the easiest guy to deal with but I try to do be honest with you all of the time I can. And also to the fans. I think the fans this year were great. You think back 11-and-a-half months ago when I came here, I think they embraced us and my coaches and the way that we tried to instill what we're trying to teach here. We've had a long season and we were able to have a bunch of alumni come in, a lot of the former players and got a chance to visit with some of our team, so those things were all good. I talked to the team yesterday before they got out of here. There were some good things that happened throughout the course of the year but not enough good things. We didn't finish where we needed to finish and 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. 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.
Q: You said on Sunday that you'd feel more comfortable today giving an assessment of your overall season. In terms of your job as a coach how do you think you did this season?
A: Well honestly I never felt overwhelmed from the day I walked in. I was really lucky to walk into a place like this that has such a great support group. The people upstairs - the ownership, Rick [Spielman] 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. Are there some things that I would do differently? Sure. 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. Were there things that surprised me? Sure. During games were there things that happened that the referee had to explain something to me? Yeah, but I don't think that's unique with any coach, let alone a first-year guy. The feedback that I got from the players was very positive. Now they might be just telling me stuff but it was very positive from the ones I talked to.
Q: How do you feel handling game management situations for the first time?
A: I think any time when you look at things realistically, again, I don't feel like I'm one of those guys that's going to say, "Hey, I did everything right or wrong," or even if I did I'm not going to say it. I think in retrospect you can always say well because it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to turn out you would have done it differently. The times when I made those decisions, most of the times, I felt like I was making the right ones. Just like when I make a call on defense, I'll cuss myself out I guess for, "you shouldn't have made that call then,", and that happens throughout the course of the game, but probably not as much as when I did it on defense.
Q: Does the end of the Buffalo game still gnaw at you a little bit?
A: Yeah, and that was part of the reason. I think hopefully I learned from that. Everything was so helter skelter. A team shouldn't convert on fourth-and-20 but everything was so helter skelter at the time and it turned out to be such a critical play in the season and the game, but like Sunday when it was fourth-and-9 and it was kind of the same situation -everything was kind of helter skelter, the clock was going down, they were going up, we couldn't get the call – I called timeout on that one. Now they converted the fourth down but I think I learned from the Buffalo game in that situation. I've said this before, I've never liked to use timeouts on defense; I think there are times to do it. Most of the head coaches that I've worked for don't like to waste them on defense because guys should be able to get lined up and do those things but I felt like in that situation last week against Chicago that it was a time to do it and it didn't work out. So you say to yourself, "Well, maybe if we don't call it." I think you can second-guess yourself on a lot of different things.
Q: How much turnover do you foresee on the roster?
A: All of those things are going to depend on when we sit down next week and we go through our player evaluations, cap-wise, all of the different scenarios that come up, we'll talk about that. I do expect that there will be turnover. I know that myself, Rick, the scouts, the coaches are committed to turning over every rock possible to look to keep working on acquisition of talent whether it's in the Canadian Football League or college or free agency. We're going to work diligently on trying to improve this football team the very best we can. I'm not just talking about personnel, I'm talking about schemes, I'm talking about everything that we can do. I do think I have a much better idea of the players now than I did, obviously, at this time a year ago. I think seeing them in the game-type situations, seeing them every day in practice, seeing them in the meetings help to figure out what they can do better, what they don't do quite as well and things that we can change and try to make us more successful than we were.
Q: You emphasized the defensive side more in free agency in the draft. Will you make more of an emphasis on the offensive side this offseason?
A: Really what we're going to try to do is improve the football team the very best we can. We're going to continue to look whether it's defense, offense, special teams. It doesn't matter to me how we win football games. I do think we have a good, young nucleus of talent here. I think a lot of guys have stepped up this season that improved, that showed that they have the ability but kind of the same thing I said to them – nothing that they did a year ago will matter next year when we come back in April. It's about continually developing and getting better each and every week.
*Q: How close are you to establishing the culture that you want in this organization? *
A: One of the things that I wanted to try to do when I came here was to try to change the culture as much as I possibly could. I think in a lot of ways it's moving in that direction as far as developing the mindset, developing the mental toughness, all of the things that I said really in the first press conference I ever had. I don't believe we're there yet. I think there's still a lot of preaching, a lot of sweat and pushing that I'm going to have to make sure that I continue to do but I do think that the players, for the most part, feel like the program is going in the right direction.
Q: Regardless of the economic factors and maybe even political factors, do you want Adrian Peterson back on this team?
A: Well as I've said many, many times Adrian was always great with me. 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.
Q: Do you believe he still adds value to the team?
A: I think he'd add value to any team to be honest with you. I think the kid's a heck of a football player. I was just watching our offensive tape, I was starting to go back right now with evaluating our players and I started with the offense in St. Louis. There's a good recollection on my mind right now of him.
*Q: When do you need to have that settled from an organizational standpoint? *
A: Part of it is our hands are partly tied with the NFL and what the timeframe that they give us but also it's partly up to Adrian and make sure he's doing what he has to do in order to get back, reinstated off the suspension. Those are all factors that we have to factor in. We would love to know ASAP just so that we can start going. You know a guy like him, your football team and offense can be different if you have him and if you don't have him. It's how you want to build the team around him, at least in my opinion anyway. I haven't talked to Rick about a lot of these questions that you're asking yet because we just finished the season but we'll sit down and we'll visit about all of this.
Q: Do you think that there is any credence to the fact that he hasn't had as much wear-and-tear on his body given that he has 15 games of not getting pounded? Does that hurt him or does that help him?
A: He didn't take any punishment other than the one game and he's a pretty resilient guy and I'm sure that he's going to be in shape and all of those things. Again, I can only go on what I saw from him and how he was with me. When I first got the job, you know one of the things that I wanted to make sure I did was to develop a relationship with Adrian to try to cultivate him into working with me and this program. I felt like over, really the short period of time that we were together, that we had done that. I really like the kid and I hope what's best for him.
Q: Do you think it was fair, the decision that were made on him?
A: I don't know that it's my job to decide on fair, it's just what it is and what they decided. If I said it was fair or unfair it wouldn't matter; the outcome is still the same to this point. I don't think it's fair that [Phil] Loadholt got hurt or [Brandon] Fusco or anything else but you deal with it.
Q: How much does that change what you guys wanted to do offensively and how long did it take to recover?
A: Well it changed quite bit and then Fusco got hurt the third game and Cassel got hurt the third game I believe it was, something like that, a lot of things it changes. We're not making excuses about that stuff. It happens to every team in the league – guys get hurt and they get lost for the season. You hope that those things never happen but it does each and every week in the NFL. As I've said before, it's really survival of the fittest and toughest, and physical teams and mentally tough teams usually find a way to get it done.
Q: How do you think the secondary did in your first year? And do you believe you have a good foundation?
A: I think they improved. We're not where I want to be yet. I think we still have so much more work to do as far as those things. I'm pretty tough on those guys especially. I think we have talent back there, yeah. Honestly at every position we're looking to get better. It doesn't matter where it is, we're looking to get better if we can. We need to continue to look at every possible place we can to find better.
Q: How do you evaluate Captain Munnerlyn's season?
A: It was up and down, I think. He had some good games and some rough games, but he has the ability to do what we're asking him to do, if he does it.
Q: What's your plan for Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason?
A: I talked to someone today about Cordarrelle, about working with Cordarrelle, about getting those two guys together. Somebody that I trust, somebody that I think would be a great influence for him and I'm not going to talk about who it is. That's part of the thing that I said last week about I have a plan for him, but we're not allowed to coach him, that's partly why it's up to him. I think this would be good for him and hopefully he will follow through and get to where he needs to get to.
Q: Is it a coach or a former player or an instructor?
A: Kind of all three.
Q: Is the goal trying to help him on the field or do you want to help him off the field as well?
A: No, Cordarrelle, he's really a good kid, he's really a good kid. He's very respectful in everything he does. It's not really about life, although I'm sure this guy will teach him something about life, too. It's more about playing, being a receiver.
Q: Do you think Chad Greenway still good enough at his age to be a starter next season?
A: I do, I do. 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 him 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.
Q: Do you get involved with any of the player's salaries?
A: No, I'm not a money man, I'm a coach, that's all I do, is I try to coach. They work out the monetary values, they work out the contracts and that's why these players have agents. That's why we have Rob Brzezinski and Rick (Spielman) to handle those things. Once they make the decision, like I talked to Chad last year after he did, I just try to coach them. Guys that are here I try to coach, guys that we keep trying to get more guys in here and I keep trying to coach them.
Q: Was your emphasis on stopping the run and not being as successful at is as you would have liked the most disappointing thing of the season?
A: In some games, each game is a little bit different, I think. Each game is a little bit different in the fact that you're trying to take away certain things, and I don't believe defensively we were at the point where we could just kind of do whatever we wanted to do. We had to kind of pick our spots in a lot of different ways, still right now. I know that we finished 14th in the league in defense, but that's really not a big deal, it's really not a big deal to me. It's not anywhere close to where I want to be. Did we make some strides in some areas? Yeah, I think so, but it's not really what I'm looking for.
Q: Did you see enough from the duo of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon to carry your running game in the future?
A: I don't know. I think both of them did a good job and they both have different qualities. I think those are all things that we'll talk about as we get going more this next week.
Q: Do you expect to keep your staff intact for next season?
A: Well, you know Klint Kubiak took a job with [the University of Kansas]. I don't anticipate, but there's always the possibility that things may change. I think we've got a good coaching staff here, and I'll be sitting down with them more this week. A lot of it honestly, a lot of it's about, do they want to be here? How's the relationship between us going forward? And then some guys, they might not be able to work out things contractually, but overall, I anticipate most of them to be back, yeah.
Q: Considering you have Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback how does that change your offensive offseason focus compared to last year?
A: The quarterback spot, we obviously thought we had Adrian (Peterson), we thought the offensive line was in a pretty good spot and the quarterback was the key thing and the main focus was trying to improve the defense. 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.
Q: What does it mean for this team next year to take the next step and make the playoffs?
A: I mean, that's really why you play, is to go to the playoffs and have a chance to win the Super Bowl. We're not a playoff team right now, and as I said, things are going to change so much in these next six months, the teams that we play will be different, their personnel will be different. Right now, our number goal is to how can we improve this football to get to where we want to get to, the kind of football team that we want to have, the kind of players that we want to represent the Minnesota Vikings? And then we will start worrying about more things like that next year. You know, we finished third in the division, before we can worry about the playoffs we've got to worry about doing better in the division than what we did. So, right now, it is what it is. And again, nothing that happened a year ago, good or bad will matter next year at all.
Q: What do you think of the schedule for next year it looks pretty tough?
A: I hope they're saying the same thing about us. We played the NFC South last year, probably people thought, "Wow, those are pretty good teams." That's kind of what I told the players, things change so much in football and pro football now that you really don't know, just because it says the Denver Broncos, you don't know who they really are until you get ready to play them, with the number of injuries, the free agency, the draft, all of the different things. Hopefully they're looking at our schedule next year when it's time to play us and say, "These guys are pretty good."
Q: Are you going to get away at all and decompress in some warmer weather?
A: Yeah, I'm going to head out this weekend, and then I'll be back. Trying to think where else I'm going. I got a pretty full schedule, yeah.
Q: Red wine and an iPad in your hands?
A: I will, a little red wine, a tractor.
Q: Considering you had some success through all of the different situations in your first year as a head coach, do you kind of pat yourself on the back after waiting so long to get your first head coaching job?
A: I don't really pat myself on the back too much, my arms aren't that long. I kind of go back and think of the same thing when I was a coordinator, I'll let other people decide what kind of job they think I did or didn't do, and the same thing for me. If I don't work hard this offseason, if I don't perform well next year, none of it will matter. Yesterday, quite honestly, yesterday was not a good day for me. When you see guys I respect like Marc Trestman, Rex Ryan, these guys, Mike Smith, they end up getting fired and you go back think, "Hey, Mike Smith, he won 12 games his first two years, Trestman is one game from missing the playoffs his first year, then they get fired." I never like to see coaches get fired. Obviously, if some wouldn't I wouldn't have a job and other guys wouldn't have a job, that's just part of it, but that doesn't mean you have to hope ill will for other people. I understand the expectations for coaches and our job is to win now, that's just the way that it is. I got off on a tangent. It's about patting me on the back, yeah. I think that we did some good things this year. I think we did. I think the team practiced their rear ends off, they studied, they bought in. We changed so many things, the food, the meeting room here, the outdoor practice at the end of the year, we changed so many things, the weight room, how we travel, all kinds of different things and I think that the players, I'm not sure they all liked it, but they pretty much bought into what we're trying to do and that was the biggest thing for me, was that we establish the routine, establish the mindset, establish what we're trying to do and force feed them into what we want to get accomplished. Hopefully, we will continue to get better in the things that we did good and we need to improve a whole bunch in the areas that we did not do good. We've got so many areas that we need to get better at. I've got a whiteboard in my office that I had put in when I got here, I've already wrote down a bunch of things that I want to start going to there, but I wanted to make sure that I finished the season, I gave the players my very best effort through the Chicago game and then I could start thinking about where we need to go from there.
Q: Have you had any type of conversations with Matt Cassel about accepting a back-up role?
A: I have not, I have not. Until we finish evaluations and all of those things, but Teddy (Bridgewater) is the quarterback, there's no doubt in my mind. He's the quarterback regardless of, I won't say that.
Q: Is there a moment that will really stick with you, good or bad?
A: I don't know that there was any one moment, I mean there's so many highs and lows throughout the season. If you go back and you think about, I reflect back a lot on the first day I got here with the team, we went and we practiced and how hard they practiced and how fast and the tempo, and everything. Then you go back and you think about the preseason games and how well we played. Then the very first game we played our rear ends off in St. Louis, and then things started happening and getting kind of out of whack there for a while. I think the resiliency of this football team, kept fighting. There's a lot of stuff that went on, they kept going. The coaches did a good job of keeping them focused. We didn't sit there and say, "Woe, is me, this happened or this guy got hurt." It was, let's go play football. This is what we do. This is what we all dreamed about. I don't know. It will be in my book. I'm kidding.
Q: With all of the adversity and such a young roster, is there a lasting effect that will carry over?
A: I hope that's part of it, but I also hope that it gives them the idea that this football doesn't last long all of the time. Nothing is guaranteed for us. Nothing is guaranteed next year. A guy gets hurt it's not guaranteed he's going to make it back. A guy gets hurt and he doesn't get a chance to play anymore. Really, nothing is guaranteed. I hope our players understand that part about it. We have to play each week like it's our last game, our last chance to go out there and perform and hopefully we get a chance to continue to play, because like I said before, we want passionate, smart, tough, competitors who love the game of football. That's really what we're looking for, is guys that that's what it's all about. It's not about the money and going out and being a celebrity. It's about doing the very best thing that we can do to become the best football team here for the Minnesota Vikings.