By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Minnesota Vikings are going to get hit with a tidal wave.
Mike Zimmer has a chance to wake this sleeping team up and give the Bears and their NFC North brethren a real run for their money in the NFC North.
The new coach of the Vikings has been paying his dues in the NFL for a long time, and he has been on the cusp of a head coaching position for more than a decade. He could have been head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2003, but Jerry Jones decided to go with Bill Parcells instead.
If Parcells had not decided to come out of retirement for the umpteenth time, Jones swears he would have hired Zimmer.
Zimmer, who grew up as the son of a hard-nosed and successful high school football coach in Lockport, is not the type of kinder, gentler football coach that the Bears and fans have gotten used to in Marc Trestman. Zimmer, as many fans of HBO’s 24/7 series found out this summer, is an in-your-face, expletive-spewing boss who knows how to chew a player out, and perhaps even more importantly, knows when to back off.
Zimmer had been the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals until Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hired him. Zimmer’s job is to lift his new team out of the muck and give the Vikings players a sense of purpose. They did not appear to have that under former coach Leslie Frazier.
If you rank the head coaching jobs that were available this offseason, many believe the Vikings job was at the bottom of the barrel.
On the personnel front, the Vikings don’t have a competent, winning quarterback on their roster. While Matt Cassel did a better job than Christian Ponder in the final weeks of the season, he ranks in the lower half of nearly all the important measurables when it comes to playing the position. Arm strength? Not really. Quick release? No. Athleticism and escapability. Not enough.
Ponder has many of those measurables, but he has not been able to put it together in three years for the Vikings. Perhaps a patient coach would give him another chance. Zimmer does not appear to be that kind of nurturing head coach by any stretch.
The Vikings have one other quarterback in Josh Freeman on their roster. If Zimmer is going to listen to any of the reviews on Freeman, he won’t even be on the roster by the time the Vikings have their first minicamp. If Zimmer wants to see for himself, Freeman probably won’t make it out of training camp.
No matter how Zimmer works out as head coach, he’s going to need a big-league quarterback. He doesn’t have one at this point.
The hiring of Zimmer comes at the same time the Vikings have moved out of the Metrodome and will venture back into the elements. They will play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for two years while their new, outdoor stadium is being built.
The Vikings lost their edge when they moved indoors to the Metrodome in 1982. Prior to that, the Vikings of Carl Eller, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Jim Marshall played at old Metropolitan Stadium. Cold, snowy and brutal, the Vikings were one of the best cold-weather teams of the 1960s and ‘70’s. They exuded toughness. When they moved indoors, that perception melted like ice cream in the summer sun.
Bud Grant was the iconic head coach of those hard-edged Viking teams, and his stoic demeanor symbolized the franchise. Zimmer seems to have the perfect demeanor for a team that is venturing back outdoors.
Zimmer’s personality will electrify his new team. Even if Frazier hadn’t been one of the most laid back head coaches the NFL has seen, Zimmer’s style would have provided a charge. But compared to the previous boss, Zimmer represents a 180-degree turnaround.
But don’t mistake Zimmer as a one-dimensional screamer from the old school. He’s tough, but his players with the Bengals said he knew exactly when to back off after he lit them up. Zimmer also would not hesitate to build a player up when he did an excellent job.
That’s where differs from the old-school tyrants of the past. Zimmer may breathe fire when he sees something he doesn’t like, but he will make a point of praising a player who does things the right way and makes an impact with his success.
The Vikings are a long way from becoming a successful team. They need a quarterback and they need some more tough guys on defense.
However, they took a step in the right direction with the hiring of the deserving Zimmer. The Bears and the rest of the NFC North should know that when they will no longer face a sleepy, laid back team when they have the Vikings on their schedule.
Zimmer simply won’t allow that any longer.