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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Mike Zimmer’s offseason of “soul searching” paying off in big way for Vikings

By Judd Zulgad

The excitement of a 5-0 start having long since vanished, the Vikings were preparing to face the Indianapolis Colts a year ago having won only twice in their past eight games.

One of those victories had come the previous week in Jacksonville – a win that put Minnesota a game over .500 – but if those Vikings had any interest left in the season it clearly had vanished by Week 15.

The Vikings played maybe their worst game of Mike Zimmer’s tenure in getting embarrassed 34-6 at U.S. Bank Stadium by the mediocre Colts. They followed that up by having some defensive players go rogue in a 38-25 loss the next week at Lambeau Field.

Why do we bring up this one-year anniversary in the midst of the Vikings’ 10-3 season that should result with the clinching of the NFC North with a victory over the 5-8 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium?

Because it’s important to understand how far the Vikings have come from this time last season and, in particular how far Zimmer seems to have come as coach.

Zimmer and the Vikings went through what turned into a very trying 2016 season.

Zimmer lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to an awful leg injury before the season began; he questioned the toughness on his team after its first loss; the following week offensive coordinator Norv Turner walked out after a loss in Chicago; Zimmer’s troubles with his right eye began around that time and eventually caused him to miss a game; the injury bug (which decimated the offensive line) had started while the team was still winning; and on and on the problems went.

These were all contributing factors to the Vikings’ issues, but the most disturbing thing might have been the back-to-back losses to the Colts and Packers. Until that time, you could never say the Vikings looked like they had quit on Zimmer. But that changed as Indianapolis piled up the points against what had been Zimmer’s pride and joy, the Vikings defense.

Something seemed to be extremely amiss. Had Zimmer lost the locker room? If he hadn’t, it sure appeared he had lost the confidence of some very important players.

Zimmer, 61, is a veteran coach and his mentor, Bill Parcells, was known for being tough on players and doing things his way. The question was whether Zimmer would go down the “we’re doing it my way path, and I don’t care what you think,” path or, “I’ve got a problem and I need to do something about it,” path.

To Zimmer’s credit, he picked the latter. Zimmer put the blame on himself for what went wrong and said there would be plenty of “soul searching” during the offseason. He talked to veterans about what had gone wrong, he became more involved in the offense, he looked to fix things.

Instead of accepting the fact he had lost some players, Zimmer repaired whatever needed to be repaired and the Vikings are now headed toward their second division title in three years and could end up with 13 victories.

There is plenty of credit to go around for this success. General manager Rick Spielman made several important roster moves; Pat Shurmur has had a brilliant season calling plays as the offensive coordinator; quarterback Case Keenum has gone from career backup to playing at a Pro Bowl level and on and on and on.

But as the Vikings’ get set for Week 15 of the 2017 season, it would be a mistake to overlook just how far Zimmer has come as a head coach.

The post Zulgad: Mike Zimmer’s offseason of “soul searching” paying off in big way for Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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