With Mike Zimmer out and Kevin O’Connell in, the Vikings could be much, much better

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers
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As Labor Day weekend commences with what hopefully will be a relaxing Friday night, I write this item fully aware that, before too long, a stream of angry texts may begin to ping my phone.


Yes, former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has done it before. Specifically, on the night in March that the Vikings gave quarterback Kirk Cousins his latest new contract. Zimmer accused me of trying to get him fired. He said I started the “ground swell” that resulted in Zimmer losing his job. (I didn’t realize I was so powerful. Then again, maybe I am.)

The exchange went downhill from there.

It was a glimpse of Zimmer’s old-school cantankerous nature. I didn’t write about it at the time (he never used the magic words “off the record”), but it’s relevant tonight, as the Vikings inch toward their first regular-season game without Zimmer as the head coach since the end of the 2013 season.

Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com takes a close look at the dramatic change in culture as the Vikings pivot from Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell. The whole article is worth a read. Certain aspects stand out.

Most significant are the on-the-record comments from former Vikings cornerback Terence Newman, who worked on Zimmer’s staff after his playing career ended.

“I think [Zimmer] felt the pressure and he put so much pressure on everybody else around him that there was no way we could succeed,” Newman told Dunne. “We couldn’t win. It was hard to focus on your job when you’re focusing on, ‘OK, if I make a mistake, I’m going to get cussed out.’ That type of environment is tough to work in. Period. I don’t give a shit what you do. It’s hard to work in an environment like that.”

The problem was simple. Zimmer was always pissed off.

“He was never in a good mood,” Newman told Dunne. “People sense that stuff. You come in and you have an attitude. What the fuck are you mad about? There’s this dude over here playing with a bum knee giving it everything he’s got. Could’ve sat out. But he said, ‘You know what? I want to be there for my boys. I want to go out. I want to push myself. I want to do what I can for my team.’ And then this guy’s over here grumpy about possibly getting fired and still making however [much] money he’s going to make next year because he’s got a guaranteed contract. Tell me how that’s fair.”

Newman explained that, “when you try to intimidate, you get guys who are scared to make mistakes.”

“You do your job, but you don’t do your job the best you can do it because you’re afraid of the repercussions and the consequences,” Newman said. “You get embarrassed in front of everybody in the meeting room, and that does nothing for anybody. There’s no positivity that comes from that. . . . It was an atmosphere that became very toxic. Young guys didn’t want to play for the guy.”

Frankly, it doesn’t sound all that different than the approach used over the years by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The difference is that Belichick has won. Zimmer didn’t. At least, not enough.

“If you’re a coach who coached in the 90s — and you haven’t adapted to what you’re doing — you’re making a huge, egregious mistake,” Newman told Dunne. “You can’t just run your players into the dirt. You can’t go Bill Parcells, two-a-days, live, goal-line, live red zone plays. You can’t do that anymore. I mean, you’ve got guys who are beat up just from practice. They’ve got to go play a game on Sunday. And we literally beat the shit out of each other on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

Newman said the environment became “toxic.” And while we typically shy away from sharing opinions shared to the media on an off-the-record basis, an unnamed former coordinator provided a blunt and simple explanation for why he thinks the 2022 Vikings will thrive.

“Because the devil’s gone,” the unnamed former Vikings coordinator told Dunne. “Satan is out of the building.”

That’s harsh. And it may be a little over the top. Regardless, Zimmer was a little over the top, too. And hopefully I won’t be getting any over-the-top text messages later tonight.

92 responses to “With Mike Zimmer out and Kevin O’Connell in, the Vikings could be much, much better

  1. Young guys didn’t want to play for the guy.
    That’s too bad it end this way because at one time most veterans wanted to play for Zimmer. They even took less to do so

  2. The ship starts an about face at 3:30 p.m on Sunday September 11th……………………………………………just you watch!

  3. Because the devil’s gone,” the unnamed former Vikings coordinator told Dunne. “Satan is out of the building.
    Sounds like someone is still bitter about being fired

  4. “Best head coach in the NFL.”

    Just like Frazier before him.

    And just like Childress before him.

    And even just like Tice before him.

  5. Cousins won-loss record is about even in his career. Does he have excuses for himself for every coach he’s played for?

  6. Yeah Zim is gone but how good is McConnell?

    Not a lot of experience, I think he will continue to improve but do you think he will hit the ground running?

    I doubt that.

  7. It’s always funny when the person holding the bullhorn says – Who me? Yes – you have millions of readers and you’re an influencer….

  8. It’s always funny when the person holding the bullhorn says – Who me? Yes – you have millions of readers and you’re an influencer…. Let’s not kid anyone

  9. They couldn’t succeed but he took them to the NFC championship game with Case Keenum at QB. What a failure. Fact is that Kirk Cousins isn’t leading anybody to a Super Bowl. At least he had enough sense to realize it.

  10. Ha, I’ve heard literally every year the Vikings have been an organization that this year they’re gonna be good. Rarely happens.

  11. Will wait till after season to judge the curmudgeon Zimmer and pocket full of 3rd day picks Spielman

  12. I liked Zimmer alot. Knowledgeable and determined, I thought Zim was the perfect coach for the Vikings.

    Yet except for 2017 he had mediocre results. 2021 was an embarrassment.

    I don’t know how the new guys will do but Newman laid out the rationale for change extremely well. So far, so good.

    Zim created his own problems while the rest of us had to endure them — the necessary fate of a fan.

  13. Newman is trash. He only had the job there because of Zimmer. Players now are so soft, it’s barely even football these days.

  14. Mike Zimmer is a fantastic coach and a good man. Maybe get over the fact that he didn’t handle the PR part of the job very well. Guaranteed he’s better at his job than you are at yours. And probably a better man.

  15. Zims a good coach and a good dude. Easy to kick a man when he’s down and out. Let’s see what this new and exciting and uber positive coaching staff can do when they fully uncork the raw talents of Kirk Cousins! How many seasons before Cousins becomes the fall guy and Coach declares they need their QB…I’d guess one season.

  16. Also love the comment by Newman about playing for your boys. No, you are playing to stay in that league and make in most instances more than what he made as the HC. When this team flops this year, I’m going to be laughing and laughing and laughing. Zimmer wasn’t the problem. Probably had worn out his welcome there like most coaches who stay in one place too long, but he also won most of his time there with mediocre QB play.

  17. The unnamed coordinator is probably George Edwards or Norv Turner. Both left on less than good terms.

  18. Zimmer wasn’t the problem? The defensive guru couldn’t hold a lead. Zim is a good guy? You know this because why? Because you’re a fan? I’m pretty sure the people in that building should be believed over anonymous hunyucks on this thread.

  19. chue says:
    September 2, 2022 at 8:27 pm
    Mike Zimmer is a fantastic coach and a good man. Maybe get over the fact that he didn’t handle the PR part of the job very well. Guaranteed he’s better at his job than you are at yours. And probably a better man.

    If you’re going to go that far, you gotta mention the hot girlfriend.

  20. Zimmer was the devil’s seed. I saw this years ago. But the Minnesota fans were up to the task of calling him for his BS. Neither was the press who let him crap on them weekly. Here is the dark truth: Zimmer was out of touch. Have another glass of red shiraz Zim! But wait how come the Wilfs were so out of touch about Zimmer? They share the blame.

  21. It’s not every day that players put their names to comments like the ones Newman is making. It’s pretty bold stuff, and yeah, it speaks volumes about just how bad Zimmer must’ve been to work with that Newman decided to speak on it rather than just take the fifth.

  22. scarletknight says:
    September 2, 2022 at 7:58 pm
    Bill B. succeeded because of Tom Brady. The nasty coach format no longer works. Look at Joe Judge vs. Sean McVay.

    189Rate This

    Belichick drafted, developed and MADE Tom Brady. Who do you think led the QB room every week? Bill Belichick.

    The continued dumbing down of our country simply continues.

  23. New head coach, new Gm, just need a new QB and maybe something good will happen. Of course, we have to wait because the new GM extended the loser QB for 2 more years.

  24. There’s that renewed ‘C’ word again thss ast is yet another losing teams problem (let’s see, Lions, Bears, Jags, Raiders, Giants, Jets, shall I go in??). Florio, you know better – bad teams always blame bad culture for their problem – post mortem. How about your beloved Vikes just score more and allow other teams to score less?

  25. All you little babies who wanna cry about how tough Zimmer was need a dose of reality. No participation trophies. No preferential treatment because Mommy says you’re wonderful. Soft generation.

  26. Newman was a previous Zimmer acolyte… think about how toxic he must have been the past few years for him to speak so negatively about his DB guru mentor

  27. Oh boo-hoo, Newman. Get a job in the real world and Mike Zimmer will look like a sweetheart.

  28. We told you you’d never win a big game with Zim at the helm, and now you hear it from those who were there. Every Viking apologist from 2016 onward take note.

  29. Remember when the Vikings fans bragged about Zimmer? He won as many Super Bowls as every other Vikings coach!

  30. If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one. Talent and execution can undoubtedly be screwed up with bad management but, more often than not, the talent just isn’t good enough. For example, there’s been very few if any better as a players coach than Dick Vermille yet a lack of defensive talent left KC sitting at home in the playoffs during his time.

  31. Newmans comments go with a grain of salt. He underachieved with the Cowboys and didnt wake up till after he was cut. Zimmer gave him more chances and he played to his potential before the coaching grind too a toll on Zimmer …

  32. Zim got screwed by spielmam – would have won 2 superbowels by now with Case the “miracle man”

  33. Snowflakes in the NFL now. Guess they fit in with millennials and gen z. Cry and under perform if someone yells. Glad you snowflakes didn’t storm the beaches at Normandy. We’d have lost.

  34. I mean, just watch his interview with Deion at Jax state. He looks mad about something lol. Just how he was.

  35. One issue they still have a very average QB that with out a stifling D simply can’t lead the team to enough victories to count at the end of the season, but this still is technically the preseason so the usual teams are still in the running for the off season of “look how great we are” Super bowl.

  36. Or not. Simmers was a coaching legend. O’Conner is a rookie and a kid. I don’t put him in th Hall of Fame just yet.

  37. Newman! Really though, Zimmer started out pretty well. Won the division in his 2nd season… had a couple of starting QB’s knocked out for back to back seasons. From ’15 to ’19 they were pretty darn good. Then the bottom fell out and he apparently didn’t handle it well. His grumpyness went stale. Didn’t help that Spielman crapped the bed trading for Bradford. Out with the old, this team has some talent… let’s see what happens.

  38. The Tragic Life Cycle of a Vikings fan.

    1: The Offseason begins. Sign an ex-Packer.

    2: Brag about free agent signings.

    3: Brag about draft picks.

    4: Brag about winning the offseason.

    5: Win a few games/Get your hopes up.

    6: Blame the officiating after a spate of losses.

    7: Get Eliminated from postseason contention. (Sadly begin your Christmas shopping.)

    8: Gloat about rival teams losing in the playoffs. (If applicable.)

    9: Rinse and Repeat.

  39. Zimmer was for a time praised because he “told it like it was.” Then when they didn’t win enough he was seen as being too abrasive. Surprise, surprise.

  40. People have no idea just how bad it got inside that building. Hopefully someday the story will be told.

    As far as the Vikings this year, we have no evidence as of yet that Kwesi can manage a roster or that KOC is capable of being a head coach. The roster is very good, even great at some positions, but not quite to the level needed to win a super bowl. A slow start is very possible given the dramatic change in offensive and defensive systems being employed this year.

    This is a team that could go 6-11, or 13-4 or it could be a team that starts slow, heats up and sneaks into the playoffs at 10-7 and becomes a nightmare for the rest of the field.

    There’s a ton of unanswered questions with this team and it’ll probably take at least a couple of seasons to answer all of them.

  41. When a tough coach is fired, players always say he was a total tyrant who made their lives miserable and it’s such a relief to have a nice coach. When a nice coach is fired, players always say there was no discipline and it’s so much better to have a tough coach.

  42. Soiunds like a bunch of millennial crybabies. Coaches don’t win games players do. I see losing season again for the Vikes SKOL THAT

  43. In deference to Florio, the first line of the article should have been “Unless they’re not”……

  44. LOL .. Florio really does like his Vikings! Always easy to trash the ex head coach when he’s gone. Be very interesting to see how long it’s going to take for the new guy to get whacked.

  45. Cousins’ fault? Last year, Vikings #12 in offense, #30 in defense. In 2020, Vikings #5 in offense, #27 in defense. I sense a pattern

  46. History is about to be changed……………………………………………………Marty McFly…………Go Vikings!!!!!!

  47. Sure, by the end it was time for a change, but Zim squeezed a lot out of that lineup for a lot of years, and the veterans would have run through a wall for the guy because he was real. The fact that he was old school was regarded as a selling feature when they were winning, but when they lose he gets called Satan by a bitter former staff member. (Probably won’t take much sleuthing to figure out who it was.) It works the same for media friendly players coaches – everything is cool when you’re winning, but start losing and the calls for more “discipline” and “structure” will start…

  48. I think this all makes sense except I am not sure they will be better yet. The change from a 4/3 to a 3/4 is huge. To make it work they repositioned some folks to positions they haven’t played (d. Hunter) and got some retreads off the waver wire (Bullard). The Zone heavy pass scheme can get picked apart by good route running and a pinpoint quarterback (Rogers). We will get there, but I am not sure we will get there right out of the gate. And against Green Bay I am worried about the D. Actually I am just worried about the D against any good QB. And There must be a book somewhere on stopping the run we can send them?

  49. ragnarthegreat says:
    September 3, 2022 at 9:11 am
    I think this all makes sense except I am not sure they will be better yet. The change from a 4/3 to a 3/4 is huge
    Look at it from a different angle. The defense blew like 10 leads last year, and was the worst team in 20 years for scoring allowed at the end of the half and game. And people like Cousins, Hunter, and Kendricks missed games. And they had, what, 8 losses by one score? And they still went 8-9. Oh, and of course, this entire article. I don’t see how you cannot expect improvement from that.

  50. I’m not a Vikings fan but I’ll be very surprised if they don’t win the NFC North this year.

  51. As a Packers fan I hope for a victory Sept. 11, but I have some misgivings. Matt LaFleur decided again to not play his starters at all during the preseason(save for some team practice with the New Orleans Saints). He did the same thing last year and the Saints blew out the Packers opening day in one of the most embarrassing defeats in Packers history. The Vikings are well versed on the Packers and have the personnel to match or exceed the Packers at almost every position.

    So the Packers are healthy going into the opener but the Vikings are ready to take back some respect. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Vikings victory at all.

  52. Zimmer never got a franchise QB, and then they went and paid Mr. Stat Stuffer 40% of the cap, defeating what he had built with that defense since you can’t keep everyone after you allocate so much to someone who has proven he can’t carry a team. When Bridgewater got hurt that year in training camp, that was their year. I had them going to the Super Bowl that year if everything broke right, but showing up in the championship game two years later with just competent QB play instead of what Bradford did to them that year and next showed how good that roster was. It’s one of those classic what if stories. Zimmer’s demeanor has nothing to do with anything. If anything they should have went to Harbaugh this off-season instead of letting people talk them out of it, and they might have finally gotten it done.

  53. This is a team that could go 6-11, or 13-4
    13 wins? Aint no way. That defense is paper thin, Son.

  54. Zimmer was always a hard ass, but his teams pre-Cousins played their ass off for him and you could tell. The dude was nearly balling over the Bridgewater injury. Then Slick Rick made the cardinal mistake of falling for the “one player away” trap. Cousins contract hamstrung the team and it progressively got worse. Zimmer became angry and bitter, and that’s where all this comes from with Newman.

  55. Cousins is Cutler is Trubisky is Jordan Love is …. every other serviceable quarterback in the NFL. Can make all the throws in a clean pocket and is good for two ill advised throws (picks) a game if there’s any pressure.

  56. Florio is a bitch …. And todays players are soft … did zimmer have his faults .. hell yes but coming from that push over coach Frazier this team needed some discipline… how about the players take some accountability for the blown leads because after all it was them out there blowing the leads … zimmer wasn’t the one missing tackles or getting burnt

  57. Alright. Everything’s fixed and the Vikings are on their way to football Nirvana.
    The Devil has been exorcised, the roster stacked and loaded (Again. 🙄) with a new genius coaching staff to take over.

    Green pastures lie ahead. No excuses.
    But, there are always excuses when it comes to this team and their fan base. Excuses galore.
    Excuses on top of excuses.
    They have a Rolodex full of them and it’s all just a week away.
    7-10, Buckle up! 🤣

  58. There is incredible pressure to be a .500 team in MN, and in the end that proved to be a bridge too far for Zimmer.

  59. Player’s coaches are effective 1 or 2 seasons, before vets or rookies or whoever start taking advantage of that coach’s style.
    With college coaches becoming softer and softer and mental health breaks all the rage, it’s an adjustment to a old school coach, who may cross the line here or there, which many players wilt.
    There is a fine line for sure but the oversensitiveity of lots of people these days will affect a team mentality of they are more focused on a “mean” coach, than doing the job they are paid very well to do.

  60. The Vikings could be better….or they could be worse.

    Even if O’Connell is better and has a better system, it can often take the team the entire season to grasp the new offense.

  61. Packer fans sure can be sensitive.
    I liked Zimmer, guy lost his job; quit kickin the man cause he didnt like you. chump

  62. living here in minny but not a vike fan, I think if it wasn’t for Spielman stealing several drafts getting Cook, Jefferson, Smith, Zimmer would have been found out earlier he wasn’t hc material.Hey when you have the best rb, receiver, three pro bowl TE’s, three pro bowl defensemen and cant win the Nfc north, you need to go.

  63. PartyonWayne,

    Hit the nail on the head. The people talking about the defensive failures the last couple of years don’t seem to grasp how that contract directly leads to you fielding a defense short of players that can dominate. No, they fall for that Cousins has pretty stats when we’ve all watched him play for years and can see he can’t carry a team. Spielman gave him the first guaranteed contract before this Watson fiasco, and that sunk that team. It put Zimmer on borrowed time the day that was done. It’s going to get worse until they start over.

  64. I prefer head coaches with at least average QB intelligence.

    Maybe Kev is just a poor test taker.

  65. In the end, Zimmer wasn’t a good leader. Which is ironic because it’s the thing he wanted the most to be good at

  66. Bud Grant was the only Vikings coach worth a crap. The Viking lost all their toughness when they moved into a dome.

  67. johngaltwho says:
    September 3, 2022 at 12:52 pm
    Cousins is Cutler is Trubisky is Jordan Love is …. every other serviceable quarterback in the NFL. Can make all the throws in a clean pocket and is good for two ill advised throws (picks) a game if there’s any pressure.

    I’d take untested, unproven Jordan Love, with all the potential in the world ahead of him, over any of those guys.

  68. I believe this new guy is right. I grew up watching the Lombardi Packers but I truly believe St. Vincent would have a tough time today, if not fail altogether.

    These kids today are different. Not soft, different. Put Ray Nitschke or Dick Butkus on the field today and they’d leave by halftime. On a stretcher. Maybe in a body bag. That’s how “soft” these kids today are.

    Those that can communicate WITH today’s players will succeed. Those that insist on communicating AT them (in a foul manner at the top of their lungs) will not succeed.

  69. A major defensive scheme switch with most but not all of the usual characters in-place takes 2-3 years to gel.

  70. If this is accurate, it explains a couple things that were puzzling during his tenure in Minnesota. I’ve never seen Vikings teams come out so consistently flat when they went into big games. If you’re more worried about the wrath of Zim if you make a mistake than you are about the game, you’ll play tight. Then, put the kickers in that situation and you can see why there was a lot of missed kicks and a revolving door with the kickers.

  71. I never knew Zimmer was registered under so many handles. Give it a rest Zim.
    Terrance Newsman’s complaints ring true. Zimmer had a lot of anger that was unwarranted and unrelated to football I think. He lost any compassion he might have had when his wife died. An he frankly had no idea how to coach today’s generation of players. You could see it across the league in which coaches were winning, the younger ones. And he showed what a low class individual he was at the end when he refused to give Justin Jerrferon any plays calls that would have gotten him a record or play Kellen Monde when the game experience might have helped it and the game was out of reach. I thought both actions was insulting and mean spirited. I am glad he is gone, it was overdue

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