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5 takeaways: Mike Zimmer talks new coaching hires

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer held a conference call on Tuesday to discuss changes to his coaching staff, which include elevating Gary Kubiak to offensive coordinator, D-line coach Andre Patterson and LBs coach Adam Zimmer to co-defensive coordinators and adding long-time defensive coordinator and head coach Dom Capers as an assistant. Here’s five things that stood out from Zimmer’s comments:

Dom Capers will be an idea guy

The Vikings announced Monday that they would be adding Dom Capers to the staff. Zimmer said that his role in 2020 will be similar to the way Gary Kubiak contributed to the offense in 2019.

Capers has been an NFL coach since 1986 when he acted as defensive backs coach of the New Orleans Saints. He’s been a defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers as well as a head coach for the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans. Last year he served as an advisor for the Jaguars.

Along the way Capers has largely been known for his 3-4 defense. Of course in the NFL today teams rarely use four linebackers on the field at once but his perspective on defense will be different.

Zimmer said: 

“Part of it was Dom has been doing this for a long time and I know he’s always really had good ideas in the pressure game defensively. I just wanted another idea guy. Someone who comes in who can have a little better way of doing things than we’ve done them in the past or at least being able to say: ‘Have you thought about doing it this way or that way?’ And then we can all sit in a room and decide how we want to do things. With the experience that he has and the number of things that he’s done in his career and basically he was doing a lot of the same things in Jacksonville as he’s doing here.”

Co-DCs and calling plays

With George Edwards leaving to join the Dallas Cowboys, Zimmer elected to fill the vacancy with both Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer. Each has extensive experience working with the Vikings’ head coach. Zimmer quipped: “Andre has been with me for pretty much my entire career.”

During Patterson’s tenure the Vikings have developed numerous defensive linemen, most notably Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr have both made the Pro Bowl during Adam Zimmer’s time.

Zimmer did not commit to continuing to call plays, though it would be surprising if he gave up duties after calling the defense for his entire time in Minnesota.

Zimmer said: 

“I just felt like if we could combine those guys and still have them coach their same positions that they coach because the position players that they had have all played really well. I just feel like if the way we’ve got it set up now, I thought it would be the best of both worlds.”

“We’re still in the process of [the play calling decision], we’ll figure all that out as it goes. I can always call the plays but we’ll see how it goes in the spring. We’ve got a plan that we’re going to stick to and we’ll see how it goes. If I think the best thing for the team is for me to call defenses I will and if I feel like it’s not then I won’t. We’ll work through that process.”

“I’m still sitting in the meetings as we’re going through these cut-ups and these plays from last year. I have other duties that I have to do but the one thing that’s really good is these guys don’t wait for me, they just go out there and get it done.”

Keeping Gary

The Vikings offense under the Gary Kubiak-Kevin Stefanski leadership put up the best numbers of Zimmer’s career as a head coach. Naturally Zimmer wanted to maintain the same system that also saw Kirk Cousins set career highs in QB rating and PFF grade. Zimmer was thrilled to have Kubiak return and maintain the same offense that worked well in 2019.

Zimmer said:

“I was definitely relieved [when Kubiak agreed to take the job]. When Kevin Stefanski left I walked into [Kubiak’s] office and talked to him about it and what he wanted to do and he said, ‘give me a couple of days to think about it,’ so I waited two days and called him. He was excited about it and said, ‘let’s go do it.’ That was great because I thought he did an outstanding job last year and I anticipate it will be even better.”

“It was the perfect fit for the entire offense. The terminology will be very, very similar. Players won’t have to learn all kinds of different things. I think the quarterback played as well as he’s played in his career and I feel like those things will continue to improve. The more comfortable you are in what you’re doing the faster you play and the better you play usually.”

“There will be some changes in some of the pass game. Every year you’re looking for new and better ways to do things but the large majority will be very, very similar.”

Adjusting to a new staff 

While the Vikings have seen a number of new offensive minds come and go since Zimmer took over in 2014, he’s maintained the same main defensive coaches. This will be the first year in which some new faces are coaching veteran players who have been with Zimmer the entire time.

Zimmer said:

“We had a lot of new coaches but they were on offense. We had the same set of coaches defensively for the six years that I’ve been here so it’s just about talking things through. Talking about technique, talking about alignments, taking on blocks, it’s just about getting on the same page…then we can get all the players on the same page. Really in the NFL you’re going to have a lot of new coaches, a lot of new players, so the most important thing is everybody getting up to speed.”

Getting the defense back to the top 

The Vikings still had a quality defense last year, ranking fifth in points allowed but Zimmer would like to see them get back to their dominance of 2017, when they ranked No. 1 overall in points and yards. He expressed that a need to improve was behind the changes in the coaching staff.

Zimmer said: 

“It’s about consistency and we’ve got to do better than what we did. We had some good games and we had some games where we probably weren’t up to our standards, so I think the biggest thing is that we all get in here and roll up our sleeves and get back to work and see where we can improve. It’s part of the reason I brought Dom in here, it’s part of the reason why Adam and Andre are taking charge in the room.”


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