Mike Zimmer still hadn’t cooled down much a day after the Vikings gave up 496 yards in total offense in a 37-35 loss to Miami.
The Vikings coach called the team’s defense “the worst we’ve played all year … maybe one of the worst I’ve ever seen” during his Monday press briefing at Winter Park.
The defense was coming off a strong performance in a 16-14 loss at Detroit on Dec. 14, but took a nasty turn.
“I know who they are,” Zimmer said of his defense, which gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns, “but I didn’t know who they were on Sunday.”
“There were times when guys lined up where I didn’t know they were going to line up.”
The Vikings defense was hit with 11 penalties in the game.
“We talk about toughness,” Zimmer said. “You have to be tough in the fourth quarter. You have to be smart in the fourth quarter. You have to walk away from a guy talking to you instead of head-butting him – that shows toughness, too.”
The last comment was a shot at linebacker Gerald Hodges, who got a key personal foul penalty in the game.
Zimmer went out of his way to praise rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater – “he was excellent … that brings a lot of hope” – but in the end, he couldn’t hide his downright disgust at the defense.
“It bothers me when people don’t do what you ask them to do,” he said. “Mistakes bother me. Penalties bother me. Selfishness bothers me.
“I know this team cares. They just didn’t perform.”
Earlier, defensive tackle Sharif Floyd was asked to define what the team did wrong against Miami.
“Defensively we went out and did our own thing instead of staying in the scheme,” he said. “I think we all took turns coming up with penalties and coming up with bad plays. We’ve got to stop what we’re doing, come back together as a unit and understand that we have to go back to our technique and our keys, and play defense.”
Flip Saunders is a minority owner, President of Basketball Operations and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before he was any of those things, though, he was a de facto Minnesotan.
Sure, he was raised in Cleveland. But he arrived in Minnesota for college and has spent most of his adult life here. That’s 40 years now, and that gives him some pretty keen insight into the psyche of a Minnesota sports fan.
So when Saunders is asked how he thinks Minnesota fans feel about Kevin Love — one day before the Wolves are set to face their former player, albeit on the road, for the first time — Saunders’ comments are reflective not necessarily of how he personally feels but of how four decades of life in Minnesota lead him to believe fans feel.
“Minnesota people are pretty loyal,” Saunders said. “When you turn on Minnesota, they don’t forgive you.”
This is so very, very true. Minnesotans pick their villains, and when it comes to former players much of the reaction has to do with their perception of how it all ended. Chuck Knoblauch is a prime example. And Kevin Love will be another. Right or wrong, that’s how we roll.
We’re sure that most rational fans will understand that and either ignore the story entirely or understand that Flip is correct. We’ll just take a peek into the ESPN comments to be sure and — OH NO! Here’s a small taste — maybe not the hottest of the hot takes, the center of the hot takes sun, but the cleanest string we could find (click to enlarge):
Head coach Mike Zimmer just did his weekly Monday press conference, and he was still simmering after his defense fell apart in the second half of a 37-35 loss to the Dolphins. We will have more on that on the blog here shortly. I’m just popping in to provide some injury updates.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway was excused from team activities today so he could go back to South Dakota to be with his family following the death of his father on Friday. Greenway played against the Dolphins but injured his right knee in the second quarter and did not return. Zimmer said Greenway will be back at Winter Park on Wednesday, but didn’t say if he would practice.
As for rookie Brandon Watts, who saw some action at outside linebacker after Greenway was lost, he has clearly irked Zimmer with his inability to either stay healthy or play through pain. Watts played just six defensive snaps against the Dolphins before exiting with a tweaked hamstring, his third hamstring injury of the season. Zimmer said that Watts needs to improve his “conditioning” and then smirked, so you are probably free to read between the lines on that one.
Finally, tight end Kyle Rudolph did not play against the Dolphins due to an ankle/knee injury. Asked if the team was just going to shut Rudolph down, Zimmer said that if Rudolph is healthy enough to play Sunday, then he will play. Rudolph has played just eight games this season.
Oh, one more thing: The Bears announced that quarterback Jimmy Clausen is out for Sunday’s game due to a concussion. That means that Jay Cutler’s time on the bench should soon be over.
You can never have too much starting pitching. If it becomes a bona fide surplus, and there just aren’t enough spots for guys who deserve them, a major league team can always make a trade — and usually a very good trade — sending out a pitcher and bringing back something else useful.
You can certainly, though, not have enough starting pitching. The Twins know this because they learned it the most memorable way: the hard way. The 2011-14 Twins have been the Hard Knocks School of Starting Pitching , never finishing better than 26th in MLB in ERA despite attempts, to various degrees, to fix the problem.
What they’ve apparently discovered along the way — a good thing — is that hoping and wishing are not the same as planning. What they’ve also discovered is that best-case scenarios, or even modest-case scenarios, don’t always pan out. So even if you have five starting pitchers you think might form a decent rotation given a break here or there, it’s probably not going to work. Injuries happen. Ineffectiveness happens. Exceeding expectations occasionally happens, but not enough to offset the overall failure of the whole (see: Phil Hughes, 2014).
The Twins in these past four years have usually had pitchers available to start games. In 2012, 12 different pitchers started at least five games. What they’ve lacked is quality options. They usually ended up with a couple decent starters, if they were lucky. And in this era of baseball, when elbows get wonky and scouting reports catch up fast, you need more than five.
The Twins don’t yet have five. What they do have is more than $150 million invested in three — including what amounts to a three-year, $42 million extension for Hughes that was announced Monday — that will take all of them through at least 2017 (Nolasco, with an option after that), with Ervin Santana (2018) and Hughes (2019) even longer-terms. There are no guarantees with any of those three, particularly Nolasco after last season, but they are investments that indicate real effort to fix a problem.
Throw Kyle Gibson into that mix — 13 wins, ERA of 4.47, FIP of 3.80 last season — and there’s at least more than just wishful thinking for a fourth spot.
After that, you get into the whole cast of “maybes.” Guys like Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone have had decent MLB seasons in the past. Trevor May and Alex Meyer could be ready to challenge for a spot. J.O. Berrios and Kohl Stewart have potential further down in the minors.
Here’s the thing: In some years past, Pelfrey, Milone and those others would have been THE plan. They wouldn’t have been the competition at the bottom of the rotation. They would have been the competition at the top (see: 2012, with the likes of Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond and Liam Hendriks as the top options).
So if you find yourself wondering how the Twins are going to integrate some of their young pitchers or holdover arms into their rotation … don’t worry. They don’t have pitching depth — yet. If they do get starting pitching depth, it will be a nice problem to have and an easy problem to solve.
The last three Vikings head coaches have gone into their first full seasons with quarterback questions — and QB hopes in the form of high draft picks who were rookies.
Brad Childress, in 2006, primarily used veteran Brad Johnson as the team slogged to a 6-10 finish, but at the end of the season he turned things over to rookie second-round pick Tarvaris Jackson.
Leslie Frazier, shedding the interim tag after taking over for Childress, went into 2011 with Donovan McNabb as the starter but first-round pick Christian Ponder presumed to take over at some point. Ponder ended up starting 10 games of a 3-13 season.
And now Mike Zimmer, a rookie coach in 2014, had to give the keys to rookie first-round QB Teddy Bridgewater a little earlier than expected because of an injury to veteran Matt Cassel. Bridgewater has started 11 games this season, posting a 5-6 record in a 6-9 season-to-date.
All of those seasons have flaws. The first two gave way to better times ahead — the Vikings made the playoffs by 2008 and the NFC title game in 2009, then also made the playoffs in 2012 — but one could argue those appearances were largely in spite of and not because of those first two rookie QBs.
The difference this year, quite plainly, is Bridgewater. We’ve been critical here of certain kinds of throws he has difficulty making, but we’ve also seen enough progress over a long enough stretch of time to at least say he is the most promising young Vikings quarterback since Daunte Culpepper.
In his last four games, Bridgewater has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,021 yards, seven TDs, four INTs and a 105.7 passer rating. It hasn’t been flawless, but it’s been as good a stretch of quarterback play as the Vikings have had since Brett Favre’s 2009 season. And he’s done it exclusively without Adrian Peterson — a luxury Jackson had in 2007-08 when he started 17 combined games, and a luxury Ponder certainly had for the vast majority of his starts.
It’s not really fair, we suppose, to compare all these quarterbacks. But it is natural, and conclusion is simple: Bridgewater, after his rookie season, will have the Vikings and their first-year head coach thinking far more positively about the future of the quarterback spot than Jackson and Ponder did after their rookie years for their rookie coaches.