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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Zimmer knows added responsibility wouldn’t mean more success

By Judd Zulgad

Mike Zimmer’s friendship with Bill Parcells has led to the logical conclusion that the Vikings coach borrows plenty from his former boss with the Dallas Cowboys.

There is, however, one very important difference between how the two approach their business and it’s a key to the long-term health of the Vikings organization.

On his way out the door from New England after the 1996 season, Parcells voiced his frustrations about not getting more say on personnel matters. “It’s just like a friend of mine told me,” he said. “‘If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.’”

Simple translation: If I’m going coach these players, I might as well be their general manager.

Last spring, Zimmer discussed that very topic with Andrew Krammer of 1500 ESPN and left no doubt about his lack of desire to gain more power in the Vikings’ organization.

“Honestly, I know everybody, there’s a lot of coaches that would want to be GM and coach,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know how. There’s no way I could do it. Not at this stage of my career, there’s no way.

“Some of the things [Vikings general manager Rick Spielman] has to deal with, I wouldn’t want to deal with. I’m more about trying to coach a football team, that’s all I care about anyway is how can we get to Green Bay’s level? How can we beat the other teams in our division?”

This quote came to mind on Tuesday night after Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fired coach Chip Kelly. After two seasons with the Eagles, Kelly had been given full control over personnel decisions last offseason. The former Oregon coach already was considered a mad scientist when it came to many of his football-related ideas and giving him the authority of a general manager was something Lurie quickly regretted.

Although there are a few expectations, the end to Kelly’s tenure is the latest reminder that handing over full control to a head coach will often backfire.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf learned this early in his tenure, when he hired Brad Childress before the 2006 season and gave him full say over the 53-man roster. Spielman was given the title of vice president of player personnel when he joined the Vikings in May 2006, but it was Childress who controlled the most important decisions and was the Vikings’ de facto GM.

It was Childress who jettisoned Marcus Robinson on Christmas Eve 2006, causing the majority of his players to quit on him in the regular-season finale that year. It also was a furious Childress who decided to release recalcitrant wide receiver Randy Moss without telling ownership in 2010, leading to Childress’ dismissal a few weeks later.

A general manager who had been detached from the Robinson or Moss situations could have calmly discussed the situation with his upset coach and come to a rational decision. Childress was unable to do so, while trying to do two jobs at once.

Childress’ power also was a negative because it caused him to make short-term decisions based on the fact the coaching side of him wanted to win now. That meant the entire starting unit was brought back after a run to the NFC title game in 2009, ignoring the fact that the move wasn’t what was best for the long-term health of the roster.

In 2011, the Vikings suffered through a 3-13 season when Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier shared power in personnel decisions. Wilf finally got it right in 2012 by naming Spielman as his general manager and things really fell into place when Zimmer was hired as Frazier’s replacement in 2014.

This is not to say that Spielman makes all the personnel decisions for the Vikings, while Zimmer sits by and watches. Zimmer has a significant role in deciding whom the Vikings draft and sign on the free-agent market. There’s no way Minnesota would have taken linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth pick in 2014, unless Zimmer pushed for it.

But here’s where Zimmer is wise to limit his involvement and why so many power hungry coaches, like Kelly, end up failing.

When Kelly was given full control over personnel, he was the sole guy who reshaped the roster. There were no true checks and balances and, furthermore, the guys he expected to play their heart out for him now frequently identified him as an enemy.

One of the most important things about having a general manager and coach in the NFL is the ability to play good cop, bad cop.

Players know the head coach is instrumental in shaping the 53-man roster, but there is a big difference between shaping it and being the final authority on all decisions. This is especially true when it comes to money.

If a Vikings player wants to restructure his contract, he and his agent go to Spielman. If Spielman says no, and the player is upset, he can go to Zimmer, who can explain to the player that he’s on his side and hopes something can be worked out. The guess here on Zimmer’s standard response: That’s Rick’s business, I just coach the football.

The player might not be happy, but that’s a lot better than that guy having had to go to Zimmer to try to get a raise and being told no. You think that’s going to make the player want to give his all for Zimmer?

Zimmer is smart enough to know this and realize that keeping his nose out of anything close to negotiations is the wise move. Anything that comes up from a personnel standpoint that is going to impact Zimmer can be discussed between the coach and Spielman upstairs at Winter Park.

The guess here is one reason the Vikings, and Zimmer, were able to smooth things over with a disgruntled Adrian Peterson last spring was because Zimmer had the ability to distance himself from a front office staff the running back seemed to have lost trust in.

Trying to handle the GM and head coach roles means serving both the players in the locker room and the guys upstairs wearing business suits. There are a few, like Bill Belichick, who can do this, but even they get plenty of help and the majority of coaches simply aren’t cut out to be executives.

The problem is that there many coaches don’t seem to understand this. Fortunately for the Vikings, Zimmer isn’t one of those guys.

The post Zulgad: Zimmer knows added responsibility wouldn’t mean more success appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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