Mike Zimmer was the Vikings’ head coach from 2014 until the end of the 2021 season. His contract was terminated after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Now, Zimmer accepted a new job, as the former Vikings head coach will work for a former NFL superstar. He will be an analyst at Jackson State under head coach Deion Sanders.
Sanders, one of the brightest stars in NFL history, started as head coach for the HBCU in 2020. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Jackson State went 4-3, in 2021, however, Deion’s team won 11 games. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to Sanders. He flipped the recruiting of high school star Travis Hunter, the top recruit of the 2022 class.
Just like Hunter, Zimmer also didn’t say ‘no’ to one of his favorite players. One time, Sanders called Zimmer during a press conference.
He was Sanders’ position coach for five years in the 90s, and the two became friends. They won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in 1996.
He’s asked me about it a few times. The pay’s not good. But I do love Deion and I’d do anything for him.
New Interest in HBCUs
Before he made the step to professional football, Zimmer worked in college for more than a decade. HBCUs weren’t the top priority for the former Vikings head coach. He acknowledged that he’s paying more attention since Sanders took his job. Eddie George and Hue Jackson also work for HBCUs and made them more interesting, according to Zimmer on Thee Pregame Show:
“Eddie George was a terrific football player…I just think it’s great — not just for black people but also white people, white students to understand all about the history of what has gone on at all these great institutions.”
Zimmer raved about HBCUs but the former Vikings coach ultimately accepted the job because of Sanders:
“He can open up so many doors for these young men but I’m extremely impressed with the way he’s teaching them about life and not just football. And taking care of them, and talking to them about the real things that go on in the world and not the fluff stuff.”
Tenure in Minnesota Was a Success
Zimmer turned 66 years old in June. His job in Minnesota might have been his last in the NFL. Overall, his tenure was a success, even if the last two seasons weren’t great. Since he became a head coach in 2014, the Vikings have the tenth best record, 72-56-1.
His team had to endure a lot of things. In his first campaign, the face of the franchise, Adrian Peterson, got suspended and missed almost the full season. Most fans remember the missed Blair Walsh kick in 2015. In 2016, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a bad knee injury just before the season started. A few weeks into the season, Peterson also got hurt. In 2017, starting QB Sam Bradford injured his knee and Case Keenum had to take over. Despite losing first his quarterback and in Week 4 his new star running back Dalvin Cook, the team marched into the NFC championship game. It was the most successful Vikings season since 2009.
After that year, the team only went back to the postseason one time. Zimmer’s defense slowly regressed and in 2020, after a lot of roster turnover, the defense started to be bad. His last and maybe greatest defensive performance came in an upset in New Orleans in the 2019 playoffs. The team’s regression and some issues with the relationship with former Vikings GM Rick Spielman and some feuds with players ultimately cost Zimmer his job. His tenure, however, should be remembered for the stifling defensive units.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt