The first person Mike Zimmer was asked to evaluate during today’s season-ending press conference was a rookie head coach by the name of Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings coach was pretty straightforward, per usual. According to Zimmer, Zimmer did some good things and some not so good things. But he never felt out of place as a first-year head coach at 57 (now 58).
“Honestly,” he said, “I never felt overwhelmed from the day I walked in.”
Zimmer, whose first head coaching job came 11 ½ months ago, said he was “lucky” for the support system of Vikings ownership, the front office and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, a former longtime NFL head coach.
“Are there some things that I would do differently? Sure,” he said. “Did I make some mistakes? Sure. But I felt like each and every day I came to work that I gave this team and the fans and the organization the very best I could give them.
“I believe in my heart that I’ll be even better next year with everything that I do just because I’ve been through all of these different things.”
Zimmer admitted that there were things he didn’t know. Not all head coaches have the capability to express that publicly.
“Were there things that surprised me? Sure,” Zimmer said. “During games were there things that happened that the referee had to explain something to me? Yeah, but I don’t think that’s unique with any coach, let alone a first-year guy.”
Zimmer was asked about the end of the Bills game, when Buffalo converted key third downs and a fourth-and-20 en route to a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds. Zimmer had expressed regret after that game for not calling a timeout to regroup his defense before that fourth-and-20 conversion.
“I think hopefully I learned from that,” Zimmer said. Today. “Everything was so helter skelter. A team shouldn’t convert on fourth-and-20 but everything was so helter skelter at the time and it turned out to be such a critical play in the season and the game.
“Like Sunday when it was fourth-and-9 and it was kind of the same situation -everything was kind of helter skelter. The clock was going down, they were going up, we couldn’t get the call, so I called timeout on that one. Now, [the Bears] converted the fourth down, but I think I learned from the Buffalo game in that situation.
“I felt like in that situation last week against Chicago that it was a time to do it and it didn’t work out. So you say to yourself, ‘Well, maybe if we don’t call it.’ I think you can second-guess yourself on a lot of different things.”
A game against Utah always is a chance to revisit that 2013 draft-night trade between the teams, which looks better for the Wolves than it did this time last year because of Shabazz Muhammad's play so far this year.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer thinks linebacker Chad Greenway can still serve as a starter next year if he returns for his 10th season.
Greenway, who turns 32 in January, is owed a $7 million base salary next season. The Vikings will either restructure Greenway’s contract for a second consecutive offseason or waive him if the two sides can’t agree on a reduced salary or the Vikings are ready to move on.
“I love Chad; Chad’s a good guy,” Zimmer said. “You’d have to ask him, but I think even at his stage in his career he probably learned some things this year. And we asked him to do a lot of different things he probably hasn’t done before. He’s the kind of guy that we like to have.”
It’s the first time since Greenway’s rookie season that he missed a game. He was inactive four times due to rib and knee injuries. Greenway suffered the knee injury in Week 16 against the Dolphins that forced him to miss the season finale against the Bears.
“I feel pretty good even though I missed the first games I’ve missed in a long time,” Greenway said. “The rib injury was really kind of a fluky deal and obviously this knee thing would have put anybody out. You play a lot of football and the rib injury could have happened 10 times over. I don’t feel like I’ve become injury prone or my age has caught up to me anyway. That can happen to anybody at any point. I feel like I can continue to play somewhere – hopefully here.”
Greenway doesn’t want to uproot his family out of the Twin Cities for more money elsewhere. But it will be difficult for Greenway, who would enter his 10th season, to accept a backup position next year.
“It’s hard to be in a situation where you’re watching,” Greenway said. “I’ve just never done that and I don’t really plan on it. I’m going to go somewhere I can compete to play. If you’re in a position where you had to go somewhere else, it’s a combination of those two things — where are you going to play and have success. I want to do that here.”
Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do in the offseason, Zimmer expects to be the first one to hear from Greenway once a decision has been made.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him or anybody else,” Zimmer said. “I would be the first one, if it wasn’t going to work out or Chad didn’t want to be here, I’d expect that him and I would have the first conversation of anyone. I have total amount of respect for him and I will treat him with the same kind of respect.”