Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Jan 2014

Mike Zimmer to be Vikings Head Coach

This is the greatest news for The Week In Quotes in a long, long, time.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 15 Jan 2014

76 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2014, 12:08am by Sixknots


by Ryan D. :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 12:15pm

Countdown to Will Allen speculating about Zimmer Pondering the choice of his starting QB in 3...2...1...

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 1:59pm

Now, now, don't deny this Vikings fan his fun where he can find it....

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 12:18pm

Certainly likely to cause much better feeling in the Twin Cities than the Caldwell hire did in Detroit. Universally respected guy, liked by his players, not a flash-in-the-pan at all. I mean, it's the Vikings so I expect something to go wrong eventually, but this seems disturbingly sane and logical for a team that's not exactly known for making spectacular coach decisions.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 12:24pm

Thank you Vikes. Now even if the Browns hire Gase, 2014 shapes up to have the oldest set of coaches in NFL history. Average age 52.8125 or more.

The oldest of the lot 2014 Coaching Age
Tom Coughlin 68
Pete Carroll 63
Bruce Arians 62
Bill Belichick 62
Jim Caldwell 59
John Fox 59
Marc Trestman 58
Mike Zimmer 58

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:00pm

Pete Carroll is four years older than Jim Caldwell?

Does . . . not . . . compute . . .

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 1:24pm

Food cboice for Vikijgs. Team went from soft talker to hard talker. Showed to be good football minf with Dallas and Cincinnati. Deserved a head coaching job

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 11:40pm

"Food cboice for Vikjigs."

Does that mean they're going to bring Bryant McKinnie back?

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 11:48pm

I think it means they're off soft food and can now eat the harder stuff including sharing fine mints with Dallas and Cincinnati.

by Bobman :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 1:09am

Eh, I think you meant minfs.

by Ineedawittyname (not verified) :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 10:51am

Is that anything like milfs?

by Boots Day :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 1:43pm

I didn't realize Arians was that old. Is he the oldest man ever to be named an NFL head coach for the first time?

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 1:55pm

Not sure who was oldesr first timer.

Do know that b. Wilkinson was 62 when cpsch first nfl game for Cardonals.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:10pm

No, that honor belongs to Dick Lebeau. Dick McPherson was the same age as Arians. Bud Wilkinson and Rod Rust were a year older than Arians.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:13pm

That list does not inspire confidence.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:16pm

Eh, Arians looks to be a good one, and really, the vast majority of coaching hires are failures, no matter how they are categorized. It's all a random mess.

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:39am

Arians had previous head coaching experience, though. In addition to his interim work with the Colts, he was Temple's HC from 1983-88. Zimmer's never been a HC at any level.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:01am

Yeah, I suppose one could think that being a head ooach 30 years previously at a smaller college might be relevant, but I don't.

I think trying to find patterns in what makes an NFL head coach successful or unsuccessful, in terms of past experience, is a waste of time.

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:01pm

Hey, I'm not saying Zimmer is guaranteed to fail because he's never been a HC and from everything I know he deserves a shot. But there's no precedent for a first-time HC in Zimmer's age range having big success. The closest, I guess, would be Ryan who got the Eagles to the playoffs three times but went one-and-out all three times.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:03pm

Getting to the playoffs three times in the 2nd half of the 1980s, from the NFC East, was a terrific accomplishment.

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:20pm

But he was never able to get them beyond just making the playoffs despite having that great defense. That was largely because he couldn't get the offensive side of things figured out (particularly RB) and mainly relied on Cunningham's individual brilliance.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:44pm

If you want to say that a guy who made the playoffs three years out of five, in what was the toughest division in the league, in the far superior conference, wasn't successful, because he lost three straight playoff games, thus indicating that he had weaknesses as a coach, I'll have to differ. I'm not really interested in a debate about the difference between "success" and "big success".

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:20pm

"Big Success" = Actually winning a playoff game or two

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:34pm

Yeah, when you are playing very good football teams, I don't draw too strong a conclusion from losing three in a row, in three different years. No Buddy Ryan was not without weaknesses. Yes, getting to the playoffs 3 years out of 5, in the toughest division, in by far the tougher of the two conferences, is significantly successful, by any reasonable definition.

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:40pm

How much credit should he get for coaching in a very tough division when his team only won that division once? And the NFC East wasn't overly tough in 1988. Again, he had that defense (and does deserve a good amount of credit for its' building and design) and had a special talent in Cunningham (who was never really developed properly). Like his son, he seemed very challenged by the offensive side of the ball. In the last two of those playoff losses (both in Philly), the offense scored 7 and 6 points, respectively.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:47pm

Look if you want to emphasize two or three games out of 83, and say that getting to the playoffs 3 times from the NFC East, from 1986 through 1990 is not successful, go right ahead. I differ.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:02am

"How much credit should he get for coaching in a very tough division when his team only won that division once?"

Quite a bit, I'd say, given that divisional games made up half the regular season schedule at that point.

by Go pats (not verified) :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:37pm

yes I guess the 10 Super Bowl appearences and 5 wins are pretty lame

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:45pm

I think you misunderstand which list is being referred to. Sometimes, if it looks like somebody is making a ridiculous assertion, it is advisable to re-examine which assertion you think is being made.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 4:37pm

I must of been in a coma when Dick Lebeau, Dick McPherson, Bud Wilkinson, and Rod Rust appeared in Superbowls. (Yes, I purposely left Bruce Arians off the list because I agree with Will Allen that he looks like a good hire).

The grey lines leading up from posts are helpful to know which post someone is referring to.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 11:46pm

LeBeau was in a few Super Bowls with the Steelers as DC, but yes, I think there was confusion as to who was being discussed on this specific thread.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:44am

Yes, I was aware of Lebeau, but I should have clarified I meant "appeared in Super Bowls as a head coach".

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:09am

In the list you're actually talking about, I count only 9 Superbowl appearances - Belichick 5, Coughlin 2, Fox and Caldwell 1 each. Is the rationale that #10 is Belichick/Fox TBD? Or am I missing one somewhere?

by Steve B :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:50am

Add Romeo Crennel to the list. He was 58 when the Browns gave him his first-ever HC'ing job. And, yes, that's not a list that should inspire a lot of confidence in Vikings' fans about how this hire will turn out.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:06pm

For all I know he'll be great, and I think it unlikely that the Vikings will be a soft team with him coaching, and being a fan of a soft team is the worst fate, having watched the Vikings from about 2000-2005.

If this choice means they aren't hell-bent on taking whomever is left at the top of the qb board, when they make their first pick this spring, all the better. Yeah, they really need to find somebody, obviously, but they are bad enough elsewhere, especially on defense, that they just need to pick whomever they think is the best player.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 2:14pm

A solid hire, and a long overdue opportunity for Zimmer IMO.

by jimm (not verified) :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 3:12pm

14 years as a DC. 3 times he's had a top ten defence in DVOA 2003 Dall - 5th
2012 Cinn - 10th
2013 Cinn - 5th

His average defence was roughly 15th in DVOA

About as mediocre as you can get in terms of performance.

Not sure that means anything in terms of whether he will make a good Head Coach, but I wouldn't promote someone when they haven't shown to excel at a the lower position.

by drobviousso :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 3:20pm

I think there has to be a Marvin Lewis / Mike Brown / Jerry Jones adjustment in this analysis.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:14am

His defenses haven't particularly shined at playoff time. He coached 6 playoff games as DC (4 CIN, 2 DAL), 0-6. Just 4 sacks in 6 games.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:36am

Again, evaluating a coach on a tiny number of playoff games makes little sense.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:18pm

I'm a skeptic by nature. I am skeptical when the mass of people say it's a great hire. I'm skeptical when the mass of people say it's a bad hire. I want to look at different things. In this case the poster was pointing out that Zimmer's defenses were mediocre, some good, some bad, some in between. On a whim I decided to look at how Zimmer's defenses did in the playoffs. I was underwhelmed. I've watched him in my conference for a number of years and thought he was a good coordinator. Good not special. I'm looking for something exciting in this hire, but I just don't see it. Hiring George Edwards as defensive coordinator doesn't inspire me either.

If this were a GM/owner group that had a history of successful coaching hires, I would give them the benefit of the doubt about the intangibles like personality qualities and character of the new coach. Zimmer is not a bright young mind. His defenses have been good not spectacular. He has no previous head coaching experience. Please Will, I have a soft spot for the Vikings tell me were the bright spot in this hire is because I don't see it.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:36pm

I'm saying that there isn't a person in this thread who has even a fraction of the information needed to evaluate, in a useful manner, about 97% of coaching hires, and even the people (who have spent their careers within NFL organizations) with the knowledge are pretty much trying to analyze a random mess, uselessly grabbing at non-existent patterns.

Look, by the early 90s, it was pretty obvious that an unemployed Bill Parcells would be a good hire. When Marty Schottenheimer got fired in K.C., it was pretty obvious that hiring him would be a boost to most team's odds of making the playoffs. Even Dan Snyder could figure out that bringing Joe Gibbs back would make his team competitive again. Other than that tiny fraction of coaching hires, however, none of us have the slightest idea of what we are talking about, unless we have the humility to state "Hell if I know whether it is a good hire, or not", or, to be more analytical, "Most hires don't work out well, so this one probably won't either".

by intel_chris (not verified) :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 8:51pm

Will Allen writes:

Other than that tiny fraction of coaching hires, however, none of us have the slightest idea of what we are talking about, unless we have the humility to state "Hell if I know whether it is a good hire, or not"...

For example, I expected to be able to cheer a successful Washington franchise when they hired Shanahan and McNabb was named as their starting QB. So, yes past performance does not necessarily indicate future results. And, if you are smug enough to say that you knew both of those were bad choices, bully for you....

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:38pm

Well, in the case of the Redskins, an idiot owner is always a significant handicap. I actually think Shanahan shouldered that burden better than a some people have in the past, or will in the future.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:13am

Yeah. I still think Shanahan was a good hire, and will be again if anyone else hires him.

McNabb being toast wasn't really that surprising an outcome.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 3:43pm

Reports that the Vikings are looking at Norv Turner as OC. That could be interesting; especially if he can turn Patterson into a clone of Michael Irvin, he has the size/speed combination.

They don't have a qb who can fire in that bang 8 route.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 3:53pm

I also think Norv has run out of head coach opportunities, so there's a decent chance he could have a 5 year run in him as an oc, a role in which he's had some success. If they could just find somebody to pass the ball who is just decent (sigh), there's enough talent on the rest of the offense now to be easily above average.

I like the fact that Zimmer had had success with a variety of defensive schemes. In today's environment, being more varied in approach helps more than it used to, even with good talent, which the Vikings don't have on that side of the ball.

by dryheat :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 8:18pm

He won't excite the masses, but I think Cassel could be a productive QB with Norv''s tutelage and play calling.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 9:41pm

That's why I really, really, don't want them to take a qb with their first pick, unless the guy truly sits at the top of their board. That's how they wasted three years Pondering what might have been better with their roster. Re-sign Cassell, pick the top player on your board in the first, take the best qb available in the 3rd round, and try to get some people who can play in the secondary.

by Sixknots :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 8:24pm

Doesn't Norv have a decent record of coaching up or calling plays for young QBs?

by tuluse :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 9:06pm

He does, but on the other hand how much credit should one get for Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 4:09pm

I'd say if Norv could turn a raw second-year player who has shown loads of speed but very limited route-running ability into an HOF-caliber player, then, yes, that would probably be a not-bad thing for the Vikings.

Norv has always struck me as a really good offensive mind who needs somebody above him to tell him to stop being cute and just run the damn offense in the way it works best (oh, look, memories of repeated short-yardage play action passes in SD instead of handing off to LDT). Zimmer, I'm guessing, is going to be the kind of guy to do that. If I'm a Vikings fan, the idea of Norv as OC has to be pretty dang appealing.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 5:10pm

Since 1946 these are the oldest first time hires (NFL/AFL/AAFC) who had no previous head coaching experience (college/CFL).

Dick LeBeau 64
Mike Zimmer 58
Romeo Crennel 58
Rod Marinelli 57
Jim Zorn 55
Phil Bengtson 55
Richie Pettibon 55
Buddy Ryan 55
Dave Campo 53
Gunther Cunningham 53
Vince Tobin 53

by Roch Bear :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 5:31pm

This list does not inspire confidence. Hope all the gray lines point the right way.

by theslothook :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 10:07pm

Will, doesn't this at least inspire confidence that Minny might actually field a reasonable pass D for the first time in what feels like eons?

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 11:52pm

That depends on how their DL turns out. They might lose both Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, which would leave a pretty big pass rush hole to fill on a team that hasn't sorted out its secondary yet.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:11am

Well, I think they'll be well coached. The funny thing about Leslie Frazier is that he has many positive attributes, but I don't think he was a good teacher, and was not adept at hiring good teachers.

by Bobman :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 1:13am

How do the Cincy fans out there feel about this? As a Colt fan I am glad to see a strong opponent weakened. Now if Belichick can just take his dream job coaching in Canada, all will be well in the AFC....

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 1:45pm

As a Colts fan, I would think you should be more worried about a team in your division that will have JJ Watt, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and a choice of Tedy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Jadveon Clowney next year, than what the Bengals or Patriots are doing.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:19am

Foster may well be toast already, and Johnson easily could be by the time the Texans clean up their current cap mess.

Don't get me wrong, I like the team's medium term prospects, but the Texans currently on the roster who are most likely to be key members of the next really strong Houston team are Watt (obviously), Brown, Cushing if he could stay healthy for five minutes, Hopkins, maybe Jackson and maybe Mercilus.

by bubqr :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:01am

I wonder what part of Zimmer made him wait so long to get hired, as he was talked as a HC candidate for a while now, with questionable candidates being hired over him.

Not sure about the immediate defensive improvement. by memory his scheme relies on heavy man coverage in the back end while MIN has been built for Cover 2 right? Moreover, there might be a bit of right place at right time for Zimemr success in CIN, considering how good the drafting was for the Bengals in the last few years (Dunlap, L.Hall, M.Johnson, Atkins, Burfict).

On a side note, Bengals now lost both of their coordinators, and are in no good position to draft A.Dalton's replacement. I argued back when they drafted Dalton that this was the worst thing that could happen to them, being stuck with an average QB (not good enough to win SB not bad enough to be replaced quickly), wasting the crazy amount of talent on their team and missing their window of opportunity, and with botch OC/DC gone, that might mess things even more. I honestly think that comparing every QB-less roster in the NFL, they have the best one. I feel bad for them.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:25am

I wonder if Zimmer just doesn't interview well; he's known for being rather, uh, "brusque", shall we say, and maybe he has a hard time toning it down and playing nice in an interview setting.

I mean, if the owner asks a generic, "So, how do you best motivate your players" and he responds with, "I tell them to shut the @$#!!! up or I'll kick their @#$!!! @$#!@!#!!! all over the @#$!!! field" it could be hard to get that second interview.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:35am

That is the standard rumor you hear about why it took him so long to get hired...that he was too "honest".

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:08am

After someone has been a billionaire for a while, they likely become unfamiliar with being spoken to in that manner.

It's interesting that a guy like Zimmer is almost universally spoken well of by the players who have been coached by him, despite having an in your face confrontational style, whereas a Schiano is widely despised. I suspect the latter is a kind of passive/aggressive a-hole, whereas the former never leaves you in doubt as to where things stand.

by Sad Kitty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:25pm

Based on Hard Knocks and statements made by players, Zimmer appears to be skilled at motivating players because he understands that the approach needs to be tailored to the individual. He isn't just about screaming at people and cracking heads all the time, though he does some of that. He'll also call a guy into his office and quietly lay it out for them, as he did for Tank Johnson and Devon Still on different seasons of Hard Knocks.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 1:55pm

Every team in the NFL is in position to pick a potentially pretty good quarterback in this upcoming draft. The problem is selecting the right one. While the top three will be gone when Cinci picks in the first round, David Fales, Jimmy Garropolo, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Brett Smith may all end being up playoff caliber quarterbacks if a team is patient with them, and all of them should be available after the first round. The Bengals won't have to rush a rookie onto the field with Dalton around. I haven't even mentioned Derek Carr or Taj Boyd yet, who may be available when the Bengals pick in the first round.

Marvin Lewis' bigger problem is finding new coordinators.

by Blotzphoto :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 9:59am

When his wife died unexpectedly in 2009, the team and city really rallied around the guy. Everybody deals with grief differently, but I'm guessing that some stability in his home and job life was really helpful in dealing with that crisis.

by Puddin' Patterson (not verified) :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 8:49am

unfortunately for the Vikes, he's looking to hire Norv as his OC.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:47am

What's unfortunate about that?

Here are the DVOA ratings and ranks of the offenses Norv has co-ordinated:

1991 Cowboys: 17.6% 4th (up from 28th the year before)
1992 Cowboys: 23.6% 2nd
1993 Cowboys: 21.8% 2nd
2001 Chargers: 0.0% 17th (with a rookie QB, up from 29th the year before)
2002 Dolphins: 6.6% 11th (with Jay Fiedler at QB, up from 20th the year before)
2003 Dolphins: -4.6% 17th (still Jay Fiedler)
2006 49ers: -8.2% 23rd (up from -40.4%, one of the worst units of all time the year before)
2013 Browns: -14.4% 26th (up from 27th the year before, despite that nightmarish mess at QB)

Is he going to take a lousy collection of talent and turn it into the '99 Rams? No. But every single team he has ever taken over as OC has improved on that side of the ball in his first year, 4 out of the 5 dramatically and 2 out of 5 by over 30 points of DVOA (one over 40). He's a below average head coach (not terrible, but you wouldn't want him) but a very good offensive co-ordinator.

by jimm (not verified) :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 2:10pm

Flutie was the starting QB in 2001 for the Chargers...Brees threw 27 passes

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 8:17pm

You're absolutely right - for some reason I remembered Brees's 2002 as his rookie season. So yes, it was a 39 year old, no longer good Flutie, not a rookie, not yet good Brees.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 4:23pm

Well said. If the Vikings can get a reasonable quarterback, I think they're offense will be pretty good.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 4:40pm

Not only that, but much of Turner's experience has come with A)A HOF or dominant running back, and B) a receiver who can get vertical, and C)a tight end with above above average pass catching ability.

Even if they have to stick with Cassel for another year or two, there is enough here for Turner to be a top 12 offense.

by greybeard :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 10:55pm

Norv is one of the best OCs out there. Look at what he did with SF offense in 2006. That was some terrible talent, with little experience and he made them look semi competent.

by Puddin' Patterson (not verified) :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 8:54am

unfortunately for the vikes, looks like he wants Norv for OC

by Jimmy :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 2:08pm

What Shush said.

by Sixknots :: Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:08am

So...that leaves the Brownies. What's the smut there?