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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mike Zimmer has a strong argument for Coach of the Year award

By Matthew Coller

When pundits make their arguments for Mike Zimmer as Coach of the Year, they will start with the Minnesota Vikings losing their starting quarterback after Week 1. But Zimmer’s case runs much deeper than overcoming a major blow early in the season.

The 12-3 Minnesota Vikings shouldn’t be analyzed in a bubble. Instead they should be looked upon as the culmination of four years under Zimmer. They are the vision of a coach who spent decades waiting for this chance. They are the exact blueprint of what Zimmer believed could win in the NFL. And they are the in the driver’s seat in the NFC because he grew as a leader and learned to handle the spotlight and adversity that goes along with being the head coach of a Super Bowl-caliber team.

When we break down deserving candidates for Coach of the Year, it can be difficult to measure the coach’s impact on his team. Could it simply be good players performing at their best? Or a great quarterback making up for shortcomings? With Zimmer, his impact is easy to see.

The Vikings enter Week 17 as the No. 1 defense in the NFL in points against. Zimmer’s defensive prowess has been well known since he was an assistant under Bill Parcells in Dallas, but this year’s success has been the result of a number of players rising to the highest levels of their careers. And they arrived at that place, in part, because of their head coach.

Take for example Everson Griffen. He’s among the league leaders in sacks this season. When Zimmer arrived, Griffen wasn’t a starter. But Zimmer believed he could be a top edge rusher and helped him grow each year.

Linval Joseph was an excellent defensive tackle with the New York Giants. But under Zimmer he’s become a premier player at his position. Danielle Hunter was a third-round pick who couldn’t sack anyone in college. Xavier Rhodes was a raw project. Harrison Smith was already great, but now he’s the best safety in the NFL. Tom Johnson was a CFL player. Now he’s a solid all-around three-technique defensive tackle. And the list goes on.

Part of the reason for the Vikings’ development on both sides of the ball is the assistant coaches that Zimmer has trusted. Andre Patterson is widely credited with the success of the defensive line. Pat Shurmur has taken the Vikings’ offense from meek to dangerous. Hiring Shurmur and believing in a vision for the offensive line are the two biggest reasons the Vikings offense has continued to succeed with backup Case Keenum under center.

There is no question that we over-emphasize culture in football. By a lot. But Zimmer has created a locker room that handled the loss of Sam Bradford and weathered a potential quarterback controversy with the return of Teddy Bridgewater. He has put professional leaders like Terence Newman and Riley Reiff in charge, setting the tone for the team to create an identity.

The Vikings have quality wins. They beat the Saints, Rams and Falcons and the combined records of the three clubs who beat them is 31-14 and two of the three were on the road.

It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been lucky.

There aren’t many other coaches in the NFL whose top record is the brainchild of the head coach, but there are a number of other deserving coaches for the Coach of the Year award.

Sean McVay took a putrid Las Angeles offense and made them one of the league’s best – though Zimmer won the head-to-head matchup by allowing McVay only seven points.

Doug Pederson has put the Eagles at the top of the NFC in his second year. Bill Belichick always belongs in the conversation. Mike Tomlin beat the Vikings and sits at 12-3. Getting the Ravens into the playoffs alone would make John Harbaugh a good pick. Sean Payton’s New Orleans team made an impressive turnaround on defense.

Judging by the team’s reaction to Pro Bowl snubs and winning the NFC North, you can bet Zimmer won’t care much whether he wins Coach of the Year or not, but if the Vikings finish 13-3 without their starting QB and with a roster that has his fingerprints everywhere, Zimmer will be a deserving candidate.

The post Mike Zimmer has a strong argument for Coach of the Year award appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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