All the tea is spilling now about former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and the toxic culture he influenced during his final days. People are talking, and almost all of what’s being said paints Zimmer in less than flattering light.
Long-time NFL cornerback Terance Newman played under Zimmer in Minnesota for three years. Newman was part of that 2017 squad that made it to the NFC championship game, falling short against the Eagles.
“It became toxic,” Newman said to Go Long’s Tyler Dunne. “It was a trickle effect. If players are dreading getting cussed out and shit like that, then it’s going to make it a long day for everybody.” Following the ‘17 season, Newman joined the Vikings’ defensive coaching staff. Newman gives an exceptional firsthand account of what it was like dealing with Zimmer during his tenure.
Newman also said countless players “dreaded going to work” in those final years with Zimmer because the fun had been drained out of the organization.
One anonymous former Vikings coordinator predicts immediate success from the new regime led by Kevin O’Connell. This unnamed assistant went so far as to say to Dunne it’s because “the devil’s gone. Satan is out of the building.”
Upon hearing these accounts and rumors that have circulated since Minnesota let Zimmer go in the offseason, it sounds like those last few years were primarily miserable around the Vikings’ facility.
Like anything else, there are always multiple sides to any story. Not everyone feels the same way as Newman, this unnamed assistant coach, and seemingly many players. Adam Patrick, who covers the team for “The Viking Age,” feels these are nothing more than hit pieces on Zimmer.
“I wonder why guys like Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph, or Kyle Rudolph are never interviewed for these Mike Zimmer hit pieces? Hmmm… Never mind, they might actually say something good about him, and we wouldn’t want that to happen, obviously”
There could be something to what Patrick mentions in his Twitter post. I’m sure some guys liked Zimmer and didn’t take his behavior personally. But just because a few players were okay with what feels like an old-school coaching style doesn’t mean everybody will be. Clearly, many players felt the locker room and culture of the team had become toxic. After eight years and very little success, once things become as allegedly toxic as they were, it’s time to move on.
Like most franchises, Minnesota has gone in the opposite direction with O’Connell. Zimmer was the typical defensive hard-ass coach. O’Connell is offensive-minded and feels like a player’s coach early on. He hasn’t coached a regular season game yet, but there are already high expectations for what he can do with this team. At the least, he’ll need to rebuild a positive culture and make everyone forget about the latter days of the Mike Zimmer era.