Holy moly…. Mike Zimmer gave the earliest press conference I’ve ever seen, this morning when he stepped up to the podium at 8 AM. Clearly, Zim is ready to get back to The Ranch where he can shake off Saturday’s loss so he can start to get his head right for this offseason.
Normally, Mike Zimmer is one of the most open and honest coaches in the business. He gives the best press conferences, because of it. Today, he was a little more reserved but still tipped his offseason hand in a lot of areas. Let’s jump into them because the only way to get over the past, is to look toward the future.
Riff Between Zimmer and Departing DC, George Edwards?
Mike Zimmer on defensive coordinator George Edwards’ departure: “He was at a situation where he was at the end of his contract, and it was probably best.”— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) January 13, 2020
This is quite interesting because George Edwards has been Zimmer’s Defensive Coordinator since he arrived in Minnesota. Sure, he didn’t call plays, but it was always assumed that Zimmer and Edwards had a great relationship.
Well, not so fast… This quote from Zimmer puts that relationship into question. It seems there may have been frustration on both sides. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions, beyond what I already have, because nothing else was said on the topic and assumptions tend to make idiots out of people… but, the quote is interesting nonetheless.
What’s Next at Both Coordinator Positions?
“I think it’s important not just for Kirk but the entire offense to have the same system, the same calls so when they come in here on Day 1 it’s not completely foreign to them.” - Coach Zimmer— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 13, 2020
Zimmer says he is going to take some time away before he names his next offensive and defensive coordinators, but also said how important it is that there is continuity in the organization and in the identity on both sides of the ball. Well if that’s all true, and the goal is to keep Kirk Cousins’ head from imploding with yet ANOTHER scheme on offense, while also keeping the best coaching talent in the building on both sides of the ball; then promoting the Kubiaks on offense and Andre Patterson on defense, is where these hires are likely going.
I think Zimmer’s number one pick for OC is Gary Kubiak because he loves him and values old school. Whether Gary will be up to it, is another question. If he isn’t, it’s difficult to imagine anyone but his son Klint Kubiak taking over as OC, for the first time in his coaching career, with Gary playing the same role he did this year for Kevin Stefanski. I don’t think any other scenario makes sense for the Vikings offense, beyond the Kubiaks, if continuity is the narrative Zimmer is rolling with. If you move on from Gary and Klint, then you also move on from Running Game Coordinator, Rick Dennison and TE Coach Brian Pariani, who have both been with Kubiak forever.
There is no continuity from 2019 to 2020 on offense without the Kubiaks… PERIOD. That includes Pat Shurmur.
On defense, Defensive Line Coach, Andre Patterson has openly discussed his goal of being a defensive coordinator in the NFL and he is universally known around the league as one of the best defensive line coaches out there. If being a DC is his goal and Zimmer isn’t willing to fill this now-open position with his most talented defensive coach, then why would Patterson stay? Whoever takes over isn’t going to be calling plays so again, for continuity-sake, Andre Patterson is the only guy that really fits in this spot. With the changes you have coming in personnel on the field (especially at DL), Andre Patterson is someone who we MUST retain and keep happy, going forward.
Changes Are a-Coming on Defense….
“I think we’ll have to make some tough decisions in a lot of areas, not just the secondary.” - Coach Zimmer— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 13, 2020
#Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on his roster: "At the end of the day it ends up being a young man's game.''— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) January 13, 2020
the run game coordinator & often called run plays) - or whether Minnesota wants to hire from the outside, the person at the helm of the Vikings offense will be tasked with maintaining the stability the team found this season.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) January 13, 2020
It doesn’t take someone with Rob Brzezinski’s salary cap brain to realize the Vikings can’t afford everyone they have on their defensive roster, especially with a bunch of their contracts being due.
According to Spotrac.com, Trae Waynes, Anthony Harris, Andrew Sendejo, Mackensie Alexander, Kentrell Brothers, Jayron Kearse, and Stephen Weatherly are all unrestricted free agents… (deep breath) and Everson Griffen is on a team option worth $14.5M that’s probably going to prove too expensive to pick up…
So, none of these unrestricted free agents are on the books for 2020, yet the Vikings are still last in the league currently for 2020 available cap, and the only team “in the red”, needing to cut $5M just to get back to even.
Zimmer’s Contract Status:
“I love these players, this organization, the owners have been outstanding to me so I believe there will be conversations here in the future and whatever happens, I’ll be happy with it.” - Coach Zimmer on his contract status— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 13, 2020
This pretty much seals Mike Zimmer’s (and Rick Spielman’s) fate for a contract extension. He says here that they are already planning to sit down and discuss his future.
I can promise you that Mike Zimmer isn’t going into 2020 as a “lame duck” head coach. Again, continuity is the theme. The Vikings are going to try to flip this roster into a much younger version (especially on defense), while still competing for deep playoff runs. Whether or not they are successful in this difficult endeavor, will have a lot to do with how well Mike Zimmer & Co. will be able to coach up this youth-infused defense, while hoping the more engrained offense can carry the team through any mistakes that young D might make early.
That means keeping more of the same in gameplanning for Kirk Cousins, while improving the O-line and CAREFULLY steering through this offseason purge on defense.
It’ll be another newsworthy offseason!
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan
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