With Super Bowl LI just on the horizon, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer shared his memories from Super Bowl XXX on Thursday morning.
Speaking with "The Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on the 9 to Noon show on KFAN 100.3-FM, Zimmer recalled a win in Super Bowl XXX when he was the defensive backs coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Zimmer said the Cowboys, who finished 12-4 and won the NFC East, endured a chaotic season of injuries and drama as they eventually claimed the top seed in the NFC.
Dallas earned a 27-17 win over Pittsburgh to capture the championship.
"Oh, it was crazy. One of the toughest years I've ever had," Zimmer said told Allen. "I remember walking in the locker room after the game and taking a deep breath and saying, 'Whew, that was a hard year. I'm glad it's over.'"
Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown, a player Zimmer coached on a daily basis, was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXX with a pair of interceptions.
"He had those two interceptions that kind of changed the tide a little bit," Zimmer said. "We had a zone blitz on one … O'Donnell threw it out there, and Larry was fortunate enough to get to it.
"It was a good day," Zimmer added.
Dallas had superstars in the secondary in safety Darren Woodson and cornerback Deion Sanders. Zimmer said Woodson exemplified what he wants in a player on his team.
"Darren is the greatest person I've probably ever been around," Zimmer said. "He was a great player but probably a better person.
"He was smart and worked hard, he'd go out on the scout team to work on his fundamentals," Zimmer added. "He was a tough, competitive guy. Just a first-class guy all the way … he's a guy where you're always trying to find another Darren Woodson."
As for the future, Zimmer said he has high hopes for the Vikings in 2017. Minnesota started 5-0 in 2016 but finished the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
"If you go back and look at our season, I know it's disappointing the way we ended up," Zimmer said. "But at one point in time, everybody thought we were the best team in the NFL."
Zimmer said he's encouraged by a defense that finished third in the NFL by allowing 314.9 yards per game and had 26 takeaways. Minnesota also had five defensive players named to the Pro Bowl.
"Defensively, we've got a lot of guys coming back and a lot of talent on that side of the ball," Zimmer said. "They played well throughout most of the year, but there were a couple hiccups."
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 3,877 yards and 20 touchdowns while setting an NFL record for completion percentage at 71.6.
But the Vikings gave up 38 sacks and had eight different starting combinations along the offensive line in a trying season up front.
"Offensively, I think we threw the ball well this year, but obviously we've got to do a better job in protecting the quarterback and running the football," Zimmer said. "That's not just the offensive line, it's the runners and receivers and tight ends blocking.
"If we can get control of the game a little bit more offensively, and we're actually watching red zone offense right now, if we can score some touchdowns in the red zone and make these other teams throw the football … I think we have a chance to get after the quarterback," Zimmer added. "We have to score more points offensively and continue to get better defensively."
Zimmer, who was at the Senior Bowl last week in Mobile, Alabama, said the Vikings are keeping a close eye on offensive line prospects.
"I think there's some good ones out there," Zimmer said. "There are some guys we looked at that I spent a lot of time looking at.
"Rick and I sat together the time that we were there," Zimmer said. "It's early in the process, and we still have to look at all the tapes and things like that, but we're going to try and pick the best player available and obviously we need some help at offensive line. But with free agency and everything else, we have a chance to improve this football team."
Zimmer will enter his fourth season at the helm in 2017 and is 26-22 with the Vikings.
"I think we've got a good nucleus here," Zimmer said. "But I've got to continue to do a better job during the season as far as when we hit a lull in there, that I pull them out of it.
"We've got great guys on this team," Zimmer added. "This team is full of high-quality, character guys, and that gives me a lot of hope."