Justin Jefferson Interview Exposes Mike Zimmer Yet Again

PHOTO: ELIZABETH FLORES - STAR TRIBUNE

Here we are again. I didn’t wake up this morning choosing internet savagery against former Minnesota Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer. But, that’s what I’m about to do. Because, yet again, a former player has exposed him as a bad football coach. And this time, it’s Justin Jefferson, who unknowingly became the latest former colleague to run Zim’s coaching acumen into the ground.

In a cover story for ESPN Magazine (released online today), JJ talked about the first time he visited Kevin O’Connell’s office. The same physical office at TCO Performance Center that Mike Zimmer held before him.

Justin Jefferson — arguably the best receiver in the NFL and by far the most prized financial asset on the Vikings’ roster — told the author of the article, Tim Keown, that he had no idea where the head coach’s office was. In two years of playing for Mike Zimmer, he had never been invited up there. O’Connell later confirmed the story.

Jefferson Latest to Expose Zimmer

During training camp, O’Connell invited Jefferson to his office for a conversation, which is how he learned that Justin Jefferson — top five receiver in the NFL, two-time Pro Bowler, most popular Viking by far — had not only never been to the head coach’s office but didn’t have any idea where it was.

Presented with this, O’Connell fidgets a little and coughs out a mirthless laugh. “The first time I invited him, I might have had to give him directions,” he says. Jefferson says, “Yeah, I didn’t know where the office was. It’s crazy.”

The Vikings’ facility is, to be somewhat fair to Zimmer, a sprawling tangle of glass and steel with no discernible flow. Even the simplest route entails treks down tall glass hallways and up vast staircases and through at least two security doors. There appears to be no direct route to anything, and navigating it without an experienced guide feels like it could result in the need for an extraction unit. Perhaps, in Zimmer’s estimation, Jefferson was considered too valuable to risk the journey.

ESPN (Tim Keown)
How did the Vikings win with Zimmer as head coach?

There have been times throughout the last year when I have felt bad for Mike Zimmer. And that’s before we even divulge into the tragedy he is currently facing, losing his son Adam. But when it comes to the headlines and articles written about the problems Mike created in the Vikings locker room, it’s difficult to have sympathy for the former head coach.

What was he thinking? By all reports, he was completely ignoring his players and avoiding any and all personal relationships. That’s a huge problem since personal relationships are a huge part of coaching and have been been for decades.

Just look at Zim’s relationship with Deion Sanders, who played for him in Dallas 25 years ago. When did Zim decide that creating bonds with key players was no longer an important part of his profession?

And it’s not just offensive stars who struggled to relate with the former head coach. Remember, this all blew up when (LB) Eric Kendricks first mentioned the previous regime running a possible “fear-based organization”.

From all accounts, Justin Jefferson is the anti-diva wide receiver. Everyone who gets to know him, loves him. Yet, he had never stepped foot inside of Mike Zimmer’s office? In two full years? That is impossible. Honestly, I wonder sometimes how the Minnesota Vikings ever had success under Zimmer.

Zimmer’s past actions continue to haunt him

Content topics choose themselves most of the time. And Mike Zimmer has made himself one of the most interesting and clickable topics in Minnesota sports. From Kellen Mond, to Kirk Cousins and everywhere in between; Zim has become the ex-coach who nobody liked. Mostly, because he didn’t like anyone around him.

Zimmer once stood near the top of Vikings coaching history. He had a lot of success here. But, I’m no longer sure what his final legacy will look like. That’s how much damage has been done. And there’s no sign of former players or colleagues coming to his defense.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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