Unnamed Former Player Calls Out Nepotism in Vikings Coaching Hierarchy

Photo: John Autey - Pioneer Press

Eyebrows raised both locally and nationally when, leading up to the 2020 season, Mike Zimmer’s son Adam Zimmer was announced as a co-defensive coordinator, next to long-time respected defensive line coach, Andre Patterson. Outside of his father’s status as head coach, Adam Zimmer’s resume paled in comparison to Patterson’s, a 39-year DL coaching vet who’s been at the NFL level for 18 years.

Former Player Calls Out Nepotism

Multiple sources close to the Vikings (including one former player) told the “Defector”, a subscription-based outlet run by the former lead writers for Deadspin, that players inside the locker room point to nepotism when internally discussing Adam Zimmer’s employment with the Vikings.

“No fucking reason [Adam] should be a DC,” a person close to the team told Defector. “Nobody disliked him, but nobody ever thought he would be the coordinator, let’s put it that way.”

No reason, other than the obvious one. “What’s the term—nepotism, right?” said one former Vikings player. He said he and his teammates quickly picked up on the reason “Big Zim” had promoted the coach they called “Little Zim.”

“Everybody knows why Adam is there, they all know,” said the person close to the team, who we’ll call Source A for clarity.

Kalyn Kahler – Defector

Mike Zimmer calls defensive plays during games but allows Adam to call plays during practice, per two sources, and Adam called the defense during parts of this past preseason too. “It’s some cute shit so he can feel some type of way,” the former player said. Patterson, a powerful speaker, is the one who addresses the defense, and at times, the full team. This past April, Patterson was promoted again, this time adding “assistant head coach” to his co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach titles. “Probably to make him feel better,” said a second source close to the team, who we’ll call Source B

Kalyn Kahler – Defector

Who is Adam Zimmer?

According to the Vikings website, Adam graduated from Trinity University (San Antonio, TX) in 2006, where he played safety. Upon graduation, he immediately got a job with the New Orleans Saints. Sean Peyton, as you may know, is a good friend of Mike Zimmer. By 2009, Adam Zimmer was promoted to an official role (assistant LB coach), where he may or may not have helped kill Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game.

That landed him his next NFL coaching job in 2010. It was the same role (with an additional title) in Kansas City. He spent three more years with the Chiefs, away from his father, before making his way to Cincinnati during “Big Zim’s” final year with the Bengals (2013). Assistant LB coach must’ve been filled because he was named “assistant DB coach” instead.

“Little Zim” then followed his dad to Minnesota, where he landed his first job as an NFL position coach (linebackers). That’s where he stayed from 2014-2019, before his promotion to Co-Defensive Coordinator for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Is Nepotism a Problem?

It’s the question that Kalyn Kahler is trying to answer in her article. The answer, however, is complicated because nepotism is common in many professions, but not always a problem. But for the Minnesota Vikings, it appears to be. If players and others inside the organization take issue with your coaching hierarchy then you’re damn right it’s a problem.

Adam Zimmer isn’t the only accused form of nepotism for the purple in this article. “Source A” also takes a shot at Klint Kubiak, son of retired Vikings OC, Gary Kubiak (who has TWO other kids coaching or scouting somewhere in the NFL).

“You have to achieve at such a high level and you look at Andre Patterson, he has performed at a high level every time and he can’t get a sniff, and Adam just had to stick around,” said Source A. “They aren’t even in the same weight class.”

“Sometimes you see guys that stay too long because they want to set their kid up,” Source A told me. “I think Kubes did that for Klint, get him set up before he walked out the door, even though his health said no.” 

Kalyn Kahler – Defector

Buckle Up

This story dropped the day after the Minnesota Vikings season was put to bed by the division rival Packers. I can only imagine what else is floating around insider circles just waiting to push Mike Zimmer out of town. If I had to take an educated guess, I’d say this is only the beginning of the pile up. We’ll see if Zim makes it to Sunday, at this rate.

Both the Vikings’ offense and defense ranked in the middle or toward the bottom in a lot of NFL categories. Inexperience due to nepotism in the coaching room, especially at the coordinator positions, needs to be investigated by the Wilfs.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan