Mike Zimmer: We lost some of our identity when Tony Sparano died

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The Vikings lost a key member of their coaching staff last July when offensive line coach Tony Sparano died of heart disease and head coach Mike Zimmer discussed the impact of that loss on the team during his end of season press conference on Thursday.

Zimmer said Sparano credited assistants Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko with doing an “unbelievable job” of taking on Sparano’s responsibilities, but said Sparano was an “extremely influential” member of the coaching staff and that the team lost some of its identity because he wasn’t on hand for the season.

“Quite honestly, the death of Tony Sparano really kind of threw things into a little bit of a downward spiral, only because the fact that this guy was type-A personality,” Zimmer said. “He was very innovative in the running game, had a strong voice in that room and had a strong voice with me. Yes, I do feel like we lost a little bit of our identity. We are going to get that back.”

Zimmer focused a lot on the team’s mentality when discussing where things went off track for the Vikings in 2018 and said he wants to get the team back to feeling “we’re going to win regardless or no matter what the situation is” when they return to work this year.

42 responses to “Mike Zimmer: We lost some of our identity when Tony Sparano died

  1. I think as fans, we sometimes forget these guys are human beings first. I really appreciate Mike Zimmer being authentic about the loss of a leader and a friend. And his job is to win, and there in lies the challenge of being a man and a leader of an organization.

  2. Its sad that Sparano died but his absence should have had little on the Vikings in one year. This is an excuse made up by Zimmer as to why the team underperformed.

  3. You are blaming your lost season on the death of an offensive line coach in the off season?

    The Vikings offensive line was ranked 22nd in the NFL in 2017. It was not a position of strength.

    Not to speak ill of the dead but that is the point isn’t it? If you blame it on the death of a beloved coach, it exempts you from blame and no one wants to criticize someone who is dead.

    Case Keenum thrived behind the offensive line because he was able to extend plays, not because the offensive line was actually good. Cousins does not extend plays and that doomed the Vikings.

  4. The whole season began unraveling when Sparano died suddenly and unexpectedly. No way to plan for that and no chance of replacing his influence on Zimmer or the locker room.

  5. Sadly, it reminded me so much of when Corey Stringer died in camp. Just a cloud over that whole season & team and it happened again with Sporano. The O-line was terrible with or without him though. It needed to be addressed in the off season and Zimmer used his #1 pick on a corner, again. Spielman & Zim should’ve lost their jobs that day. Spielman must go if he doesn’t sign a minimum for 4 new OL and he should seriously consider replacing Elfliein too. The whole line needs replacing. If you do keep Reif & Reemers then move them back to tackle where they are supposed to play. Putting them at guard for the Saints & Eagles games last year didn’t work so then you decide, well it didn’t work in the NFCCG, lets use this reshuffled line all year. Zim can’t learn from his mistakes and he can’t think outside of his little box. The Vikings can’t keep drafting corners in the top rounds and then project DL & then project TE’s and finally a big slow OL at the end of the draft. 3 drafts for Zimmer that’s exactly who they drafted. They got Danielle Hunter, yes but nobody else really. FIX IT. Draft nothing but O lineman. Nothing. NO CB’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Vikings need a big strong WR. Thielan & Diggs are great but they aren’t #1 & #2 receivers. They are too small and get pushed around and completely disappeared as the season grew and their strength began to wain. The Vikings need a saftey to pair with Smith. They need a TE that can block/catch and also doesn’t fall down when his shoelace is touched like Rudolph. Dalvin Cook needs to be taught to hold onto the rock.

    Fix the O line and the Vikings will be good again pretty quickly. Also, Everson Griffen has to go. His issues right before the Buffalo game and the rest of the season sunk the D-line. His negative energy needs to be gone.

  6. Mike Zimmer is giving some honest insight. He’s the last guy on earth that would be looking for excuses, and his honesty and integrity is beyond reproach. He’s also tipping his hat to a fallen leader.

  7. Listen, the death of Tony Sparano was tragic, and I can only imagine just how difficult it must have been for the players closest to him to deal with and move on.

    But we’re talking about a long season, with many other difficult and arduous challenges all of these players have to deal with.
    To insinuate Sparano’s death had some long lasting affect over the team’s overall play and eventual record is excuse making to the Nth degree.

    At some point, Coach Zimmer is going to have to put on his big boy pants and take some personal responsibility for his team’s underachieving performances.
    He can blame all the kickers, Offensive Coordinators, and sadly, team deaths, he wants, eventually he needs to take a good look in the mirror and just own it.

  8. So essentially what Zimmer is saying is the success of the 2017 season was because of Sparano, not him.

  9. How can you say it had no impact? Especially on the offensive line where consistency is key. The way Zimmer spoke, Tony had influence in other areas as well. There are intangible skills that employees have and when it comes to leadership and morale those can be hard to replace.

  10. they lost their identity when they moved downtown to an inside stadium..the Vkings were unstoppable when they played outside at the old Met. The fans were better too

  11. Remember when HIS defense completely ignored HIS game plan at the end of the year a couple years ago? Zimmer can do no wrong and it’s never his fault – just ask him!

  12. Zimmer loves to talk about honor and manning up, but with his back against the wall he’ll say anything, including airing his dirty laundry with his offensive coordinators in public, and now this: using the death of his O-line coach as an excuse for his team’s poor showing.

    A real honorable coach would man up and take full responsibility.

  13. While what Mike Zimmer just said may very well be true, the unfortunate passing of Tony Sparano’s impact is immeasurable to quantify. For that and a number of other reasons, it’s highly questionable to utilize the death of someone as a tool to excuse the team’s overall poor results.

  14. At some point, Coach Zimmer is going to have to put on his big boy pants and take some personal responsibility for his team’s underachieving performances.

    ———————————————————————————————–

    Well said & its the plain truth.

  15. Throwing blame. He fired John DeFilippo during the season and now he’s blaming it on the death of Tony Sparano. Sparano is a good OC but they had almost the entire preseason to get someone. Zim promoted Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko to OL coach. Janocko was the assistant OL coach so it wasn’t a new system. Meanwhile he hasn’t fired them.
    The Vikings had Keenum, Bradford & Bridgewater and could have kept any 2 of them for less than yhey paid Kirk Cousins. The would have had money left to sign another free agent or 2.
    Poor job by GM & HC.

  16. You know, Zimmer doesn’t come into his press conference with a prepared statement. He was asked about the impact Sparano’s death had on the team and he answered the question honestly. Would you really respect him more if he said the death of a close friend to many on the team had no impact on them? The offensive line was questionable at best going into the season, then the offensive line coach dies right before training camp and the starting left guard is lost for the season. It’s not excuse making to say that those things had an effect on how the line performed.

  17. Rob Brzezinski is a Magician says:
    January 4, 2019 at 11:19 am
    You know, Zimmer doesn’t come into his press conference with a prepared statement. He was asked about the impact Sparano’s death had on the team and he answered the question honestly. Would you really respect him more if he said the death of a close friend to many on the team had no impact on them? The offensive line was questionable at best going into the season, then the offensive line coach dies right before training camp and the starting left guard is lost for the season. It’s not excuse making to say that those things had an effect on how the line performed.

    ———-

    Stop making excuses for them. This year was a complete waste. Kirk Cousins was a horrible signing. Every time our Super Bowl window opens even a crack, Vikings management slams it shut and nails it down.

  18. I’m not sure which is more contemptible, a coach who uses the death of a colleague as just another excuse, in a laundry list of excuses, to cover up his own shortcomings, or the lemmings who allow him to do so.
    Thoroughly pathetic.

  19. This is a new low for Zimmer. Say you miss the guy, say that the players miss him, but don’t use his loss as a crutch. It’s Zimmer’s job to provide the team with identity- don’t pass it off to anybody, let alone a guy who passed away so you can wash your hands of responsibility. That’s just gross.

  20. He’s being truthful about it…not to mention Joe Burger retired and and lost the left guard as well..just too many missing pieces. Hopefully Vikings get oline help through draft and or free agency and they’ll be back on top. It’s super bowl time next year.

  21. codylaws says:
    January 4, 2019 at 3:35 pm
    He’s being truthful about it…not to mention Joe Burger retired and and lost the left guard as well..just too many missing pieces. Hopefully Vikings get oline help through draft and or free agency and they’ll be back on top. It’s super bowl time next year.
    ===========================================================================================
    It was supposed to be Super Bowl time last year for the Vikings. Then it was supposed to be this year. Why do you keep saying it? Why not just let it happen, like most fans do. Your team didn’t even make the playoffs when it was supposed to win the division. This is why Vikings’ fans get such little respect and are seen as both arrogant and mouthy by other fans.

  22. If Tony Sparano meant so much to Zimmer and the team, why didn’t Zimmer use his death as motivation for the team to play to their best ability in honor of their coach and friend. Yes, it is tragic that he lost his life, but to use that as an excuse instead of a motivating force for your team shows clearly just what kind of coach Zimmer is. I have no love for the Vikings but their fans and players deserve better than this. Pathetic.

  23. greenandgoldgirl says:
    January 4, 2019 at 5:13 pm
    If Tony Sparano meant so much to Zimmer and the team, why didn’t Zimmer use his death as motivation for the team to play to their best ability in honor of their coach and friend. Yes, it is tragic that he lost his life, but to use that as an excuse instead of a motivating force for your team shows clearly just what kind of coach Zimmer is. I have no love for the Vikings but their fans and players deserve better than this. Pathetic.

    ————-
    Almost as pathetic as packer fans using Rodgers injuries as excuses for two straight years. Shouldn’t the packers have sucked it up for their wounded hero? Seems like several teams have made the playoffs with backups in the past few years. Highest paid qb and can’t hit the playoffs, ouch!

  24. RMoss84HOF says:
    January 4, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Almost as pathetic as packer fans using Rodgers injuries as excuses for two straight years. Shouldn’t the packers have sucked it up for their wounded hero? Seems like several teams have made the playoffs with backups in the past few years. Highest paid qb and can’t hit the playoffs, ouch!
    ====================================================================================================
    No. Death and injury are quite different. This has nothing do with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers so I’m not sure why you are trying to inject that into the conversation. And if you don’t understand the importance of elite QB’s to their team, it’s probably not worth taking the time to explain it to you.

  25. Well for one it was a packers fan complaining about the Vikings making excuses. And thanks for proving my point that the packer “elite” qb no longer is elite as I wouldn’t consider a finish below the Vikings and their average qb as an elite performance.

  26. RMoss84HOF says:
    January 4, 2019 at 8:08 pm
    Well for one it was a packers fan complaining about the Vikings making excuses. And thanks for proving my point that the packer “elite” qb no longer is elite as I wouldn’t consider a finish below the Vikings and their average qb as an elite performance.
    ______________

    Umm….Huh?

  27. The Vikes will be back. This was 1972 all over again. When they signed Tarkenton everyone said with that defense they might go undefeated. Sound familiar? They went 7-7. After that, 3 SB’s in 4 yrs.
    Vikes will be in SB next year. Make book on it.

  28. No worries waffle I won’t explain things to you. Just ask you buddies at the next “owners” meeting, someone there may be able to explain meanings when they may require you to read between the lines.
    What the hell, I will help you. Someone who is a packers fan implied that the Vikings make excuses. I pointed out that the packers have had nothing but excuses for the last two years, injuries, refs, etc.
    Then the next guy asked why am I putting the packers in a post, well because the previous person was a packer fan who posted. Then he said that an elite web is important. While I agree with that, I basically pointed out the packers “elite” qb couldn’t even match the Kirk Cousins win total. And Kirk is far from elite.

  29. RMoss84HOF says:
    January 4, 2019 at 8:08 pm
    Well for one it was a packers fan complaining about the Vikings making excuses. And thanks for proving my point that the packer “elite” qb no longer is elite as I wouldn’t consider a finish below the Vikings and their average qb as an elite performance.
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    The Packers aren’t vaunted at all positions, and they didn’t purchase any SuperBowl guarantees. Rodgers wore a knee brace for eight games, played with a limiting hamstring injury for two or more games, missed a game due to concussion protocol, and didn’t have the top two wide receivers of all-time running routes. Guess what? He still outperformed your guarantee.

  30. frank booth says:
    January 4, 2019 at 5:12 pm
    codylaws says:
    January 4, 2019 at 3:35 pm
    He’s being truthful about it…not to mention Joe Burger retired and and lost the left guard as well..just too many missing pieces. Hopefully Vikings get oline help through draft and or free agency and they’ll be back on top. It’s super bowl time next year.
    ===========================================================================================

    This is why Vikings’ fans get such little respect and are seen as both arrogant and mouthy by other fans

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    You just described yourself to a “T”

  31. stellarperformance says:
    January 5, 2019 at 7:54 am
    RMoss84HOF says:
    January 4, 2019 at 8:08 pm
    Well for one it was a packers fan complaining about the Vikings making excuses. And thanks for proving my point that the packer “elite” qb no longer is elite as I wouldn’t consider a finish below the Vikings and their average qb as an elite performance.
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    Rodgers wore a knee brace for eight games, played with a limiting hamstring injury for two or more games, missed a game due to concussion protocol.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    And the excuses keep,coming. Did not you say the packers were the team to beat in the NFCN?

  32. kapptocousins says:
    January 5, 2019 at 6:43 pm
    frank booth says:
    January 4, 2019 at 5:12 pm
    codylaws says:
    January 4, 2019 at 3:35 pm
    He’s being truthful about it…not to mention Joe Burger retired and and lost the left guard as well..just too many missing pieces. Hopefully Vikings get oline help through draft and or free agency and they’ll be back on top. It’s super bowl time next year.
    ===========================================================================================
    This is why Vikings’ fans get such little respect and are seen as both arrogant and mouthy by other fans
    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    You just described yourself to a “T”
    =================================================================================================================
    I don’t brag about my team winning a Super Bowl each year. Try again. I hope that wasn’t your best effort. Bears fans are pretty reasonable for the most part.

  33. Lol really Stella Rodgers concussion was an excuse for their subpar gear? Yeah because the packers were in the thick of the playoff hunt at that time.

  34. But wait let me guess after another lengthy off season bunking with his buddy Kevin, Rodgers will come back and the packers will be the team to beat again next year right?

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