Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer held his final press conference of the season on Tuesday, which he opened by talking about how the team would be “on a mission” to figure out why they started 5-0 and ended the season 8-8. Here are five of the key quotes and takeaways:
Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater
“I think he’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback. Right now, all I’m worried about is Teddy getting better. He comes in here every single day, busts his rear end and I just want him to get better right now and we’ll worry about all those things later.”
Zimmer heaped praise on Bradford, calling his performance “remarkable,” considering that he was acquired only 10 days before the start of the regular season.
The thing that was left out of Zimmer’s answer was any type of timeline on Bridgewater’s knee. From the time he went down until the present, there has not been a single update on his progress. Bridgewater has been in the Vikings’ locker room, but declined interview requests.
“Adrian has been a tremendous player here with the Vikings for 10 years, he’s done some unbelievable things and he’s under contract.
Zimmer has given this answer every time he’s been asked about Peterson this season. Despite a lack of practice and playing time, Zimmer said that he feels he can properly evaluate the veteran running back, who is likely to either renegotiate his contract or be cut by the Vikings.
The way Peterson handled the end of the season may have tweaked Zimmer, who doesn’t like his players revealing their injury status through the media. Peterson went on a station that he invests in – multiple times – and told host DJ Skee his plans for returning. There are also questions about whether Peterson could have suited up against Green Bay and Chicago but chose not to. That might bother a head coach who risked his eyesight to be on the sideline.
“It’s not managing the players. I have to do a better job of … What’s the best way to say this? The players know I’m going to be me all the time around them. I have to be smarter in other situations.”
Maybe Zimmer is pulling a classic NFL move and keeping this one internal. Otherwise, it’s a head-scratcher if he thinks that the players were fine and peachy with the way they were handled throughout the season. It was clear that some of his jabs did not always act as a “message” or work to motivate, especially ones that hinted players weren’t trying hard enough or should have been coming back from injuries earlier. This might actually be the biggest area Zimmer needs to investigate, not practice schedules with Monday and Thursday games, as he mentioned.
Zimmer did say he can improve game management. He’s right on with that. Looking back at the first matchup against Detroit, if the Vikings’ head coach managed the clock better and scored with less time remaining, Matthew Stafford wouldn’t have had time to set up a last-minute field goal.
Pat Shurmur/coaching staff
“I do think that Pat did a very, very good job, especially under the circumstances that he was put in. I think, offensively, we improved a lot in the passing game. You can look at the statistics from when he started going and things that we’ve done after that. I think he had a great relationship with Sam [Bradford]. I think the offensive players respect him and we’ll just figure all those things out.”
Last year, Zimmer parted ways with an assistant coach at his season-end presser. This time around, he was noncommittal about Shurmur and the rest of the staff. Shurmur was put into a difficult spot because he didn’t take over until after the Vikings’ loss to the Chicago Bears and inherited a struggling and battered offensive line. Shumur’s decision to turn the offense more toward West Coast concepts was really the only direction the Vikings could go with so many protection issues up front. However, Bradford’s stats weren’t markedly better. In games 1-7, his rating was 98.2 and he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and in weeks 8-16 he had a 99.9 rating and 6.98 yards per attempt. Unless Zimmer is only counting the Eagles and Bears games as belonging solely to Norv Turner.
“I do think Treadwell is going to be a good player. I know that he had a rough season. I see too many good qualities from him to believe that he’s not going to be a good player. He’s tough, he works his rear end off, he’s good in and out of cuts, he catches the ball good….these things happen to some of these rookies. I think you’re always going to give young guys the benefit of the doubt.”
Treadwell finished the season with just one catch, which makes for the second worst rookie season by a first-round draft pick in the last 25 years. Still, Zimmer has said multiple times that he has hope for the 23rd overall pick and expects him to be a good player. Treadwell did miss several games with injuries. That may have set him back because it did appear after Turner resigned that the Vikings wanted to get him involved in the offense.
– Zimmer could not provide an update on lineman Mike Harris – either why he is out or if we will ever see him in a Vikings uniform again.
– Zimmer said that issues with his eye were overblown. Multiple surgeries, a missed game, threats of long-term vision loss and a giant eye patch on the sidelines doesn’t seem overblown, but there’s that.
– A non-answer was given on Sharrif Floyd’s future. Zimmer seemed quite displeased throughout the year with his absence.