Former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had an old-school, Parcells-style, tell-it-like-he-sees-it approach. After Zimmer was fired, linebacker Eric Kendricks characterized the team as being “fear-based” under Zimmer.
Kendricks is feeling a different emotion with the new Minnesota coaching staff. Typically, teams that fire one coach look for someone who is in many respects the exact opposite of the last one.
“I’m real excited about the staff,” Kendricks said Wednesday, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Everybody’s been on board, everybody’s been communicating very well. . . We have this amazing opportunity ahead of us again. . . . Whatever happened last year is in the past and we have to move forward. We can learn from a lot of things, but we also have to adapt and change with the new year.”
Kendricks said that he had a chance to communicate directly with ownership during the process that resulted in the hiring of Kevin O’Connell.
“Just having that bridge of communication with them and the management as well, I feel like it’s not really common,” Kendricks said. “I’ve talked to players around the league and they don’t really have that communication with their ownership.”
There’s a balance to strike, however. The players can’t have too much influence over ownership. If they do, the coaching staff becomes undermined. Still, it sounds as if the last coaching staff did a pretty good job of undermining itself.
O’Connell, like Kendricks, is enjoying the honeymoon phase that comes from the plausible hope of 0-0.
“From day one, I’ve been so impressed by Eric and just his impact on our team, his impact as a leader, part of our leadership group that we have here, which I’m very, very fortunate in my first job as a head coach to have such a good group,” O’Connell said, via Tomasson.
More importantly, Kendricks is shifting from middle linebacker in a 4-3 to one of two inside linebackers in a 3-4. He said the new defense is “a little more ambiguous at times,” and that it “allows you to make decisions on the run, make plays, run around really.”
Whatever the alignment, the Vikings need better performance from all phases of the team. The past two years weren’t nearly good enough. Although plenty of excuses could be rattled off to explain the failure to make the postseason in either of the first two years with seven playoff spots per conference, the bottom line is that the product on the field wasn’t good enough. When it’s not, the person in charge of it becomes the first one to go.