Mike Zimmer told Pro Football Talk Live's Mike Florio he was "extremely lucky" that his first opportunity to be an NFL head coach occurred with the Vikings because of the support from ownership and the relationship that's developed with the personnel department.
"I can't speak for any other organization, but I know that here, I was extremely lucky to walk into a place that has the type of people that are in place here, not only with (General Manager) Rick Spielman and those guys in the front office, but also the ownership," Zimmer said. "(Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf) have been great. They want to give us everything they possibly can to be successful here, so I was really lucky to get into a place (like this).
"Rick is a great football man, and (regional scout and former Vikings linebacker) Scott Studwell played forever and he's very honest and opinionated about every player that we talk about," Zimmer said. "I think it's critical that we're all on the same page. Everybody has to be on the same page, and I think that's how you build a winning foundation."
Zimmer capped his first season at 7-9, during a year that included positives like the debut of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater and improvements by the defense, close wins and narrow losses, injuries and the deactivation of Adrian Peterson.
He and the coaching staff are now working with Spielman's scouting staff to prepare for free agency, which begins in March, and the NFL Draft that is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Chicago. Zimmer told Florio those preparations are assisted by a good relationship between the groups.
"Rick Spielman does a great job here, and the guys we have with Scott Studwell and (Assistant GM) George Paton, these guys do a great job with all the input," Zimmer said. "I'm pretty involved in it because I think it has to be a collective effort with all of us and the players they talk about and the vision I have for the players and how we can fit it all together. I think it's real important. At the end of the day, it's Rick's call, but we've had a great relationship, as far as the kind of guys we want to bring in here and really where we want to go forward."
On other topics:
— Zimmer told Florio that Bridgewater "improved so much throughout the course of the year." The coach cited multiple statistical areas in which Bridgewater excelled, especially near the end of the season and said he saw growth beyond the stat sheet.
"The things that really impressed me as the season went on was his ability to move in the pocket, to avoid the rush," Zimmer said. "I wouldn't call Teddy a scrambler, but when he decides to run, he's quick with his decisions about running, about getting rid of the football, but he improved from calling plays, to getting other people lined up to getting protections the right way to audibling into other situations. He really did a remarkable job, and I'm so glad we have him."
Zimmer said Bridgewater handled multiple challenges, and the Vikings will try to build around him as they go for more wins in 2015.
"We've got to put some more players around him," Zimmer said. "We put a lot on this young kid throughout the rest of the season. We lost Adrian and Kyle Rudolph and some of the linemen, so we put a lot on this kid's shoulders, and really I think he came through with flying colors."
— Zimmer also told Florio he considers himself a "pretty good recruiter" when asked about a possible future discussion with Peterson, on whether he would return to the Vikings or seek a "fresh start." The 2012 NFL MVP missed every game in 2014 except for the opener because of his placement on the commissioner's exempt list and eventual suspension by Roger Goodell.
"I would respect Adrian's decision," Zimmer said. "I will always be honest with him and up front, but I'm going to try to explain to him the reasons why I would like for him to be here, but it has to be a two-way street. He has to get his life taken care of, but we'll sit down and talk, and I'm a pretty good recruiter, too."
Peterson remains suspended, and the NFL Players Association has filed a petition on his behalf. A hearing in federal court is scheduled for Feb. 6.