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Zimmer a Vikings Steal at $4 million

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August 8, 2018

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The Vikings are spending aggressively to lock up their players for coming seasons, while pushing for their first Super Bowl since 1977. An August 1 story by the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling reported that starting in 2019 nine Vikings will have “a contract that carries a yearly average over $10 million in each of its first three seasons.”

For this season Spotrac.com lists six Vikings earning $10 million or more. They are quarterback Kirk Cousins, $24 million; cornerback Xavier Rhodes, $13,400,000; linebacker Anthony Barr, $12,306,000; defensive end Everson Griffen, $11,600,000; offensive tackle Riley Reiff, $11,400,000; safety Harrison Smith, $10,000,000.

Even a grade school NFL fan knows a team can’t deliver on lofty ambitions without talented players. Or as former Golden Gophers national championship coach Murray Warmath once said, “No mule ever won the Kentucky Derby.”

Mike Zimmer

Yet it’s interesting to contrast the compensation of highly paid Vikings players with that of head coach Mike Zimmer. His annual salary is guarded by club officials but media reports have the 62-year-old Zimmer earning $4 or $5 million annually. But for all the talent surrounding Zimmer, he might be the most important individual with the team.

In the competitive and strategic world of pro football, the head coach is far from a figurehead or caretaker. “Coaching is 60 to 65 percent of (team) success,” former Viking defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema has reminded Sports Headliners.

Zimmer will soon start his fifth regular season as Viking head coach and the team is among the favorites to win the NFC. He has won 39 regular season games, more than any other Viking head coach accomplished in his first four years. Zimmer’s teams have won two NFC North titles and were within one win of advancing to the Super Bowl last winter. The only losing season Zimmer has experienced was his first year 7-9 record. The prior season the Vikings’ record was 5-10-1.

Zimmer looked like a career NFL assistant coach until the Vikings gave him his first head coaching job. From day one he let his players know he was on a mission to build a tough, smart football team that gives maximum effort. The process has benefitted immensely from Zimmer’s direction including his widely acknowledged expertise as a defensive guru.

There have been bumps in the road for both the team and Zimmer personally. When the club hasn’t met expectations he can be a difficult character to be around, but his competitiveness sends a message. So does his toughness which Viking fans followed for months when he coached through a series of eye miseries that began with surgery for a detached retina.

It’s the way of the NFL to pay the best players more than the coaches—sometimes much more. A June 12 Street.com story by Scott Van Voorhis reported the NFL’s top paid head coach is New England’s Bill Belichick at between $10 million and $12.5 million. Oakland’s Jon Gruden is No. 2 at $10 million, with Seattle’s Pete Carroll and New Orleans’ Sean Payton making $9 million, according to the article.

Street.com listed the top 10 paid NFL head coaches and Zimmer didn’t make the cut. Coming in at the bottom of the 10 were Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Dallas’ Jason Garrett, both reportedly at $6 million.

You might have to search all over Vikingland to find anyone who would prefer McCarthy or Garrett before our guy Zim. Like the headline says, Zimmer is a steal.

Worth Noting

Steve Erban, known to travelling Gophers and Vikings fans as the operator of Stillwater-based Creative Charters, was a thoroughbred horse racing trainer for many years and is still involved with ownership. He’s organizing the “Royal Day Party” on Saturday at Canterbury Park that is part of the “Dress to the Nines” promotion celebrating racing including the Minnesota Derby and Minnesota Oaks. It’s all inspired by the annual Royal Ascot races in England where fans dress up in style. More at Canterburypark.com/racing-promotions.

Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge is celebrating 120 years and its history includes golf, having established the first Minnesota resort golf course in 1921. That course had sand tee boxes. Now the resort has two courses, Alec’s 9 on the site of the first course and Jack’s 18, a scenic course that winds around two lakes.

Pitcher Kyle Gibson appeared among the likeliest of Twins to be traded a couple of months ago but now could be with the club through the season and be a prominent part of the rotation in 2019. The 30-year-old right hander has the second most quality starts on the club behind Jose Berrios. He’s turned his career around since the last half of the 2017 season.

Quoting Twins baseball boss Derek Falvey in a letter sent Monday to ticket buyers reassuring them about the franchise’s future: “…We should all look forward to a strong finish to this season and the continued growth of our players as we build toward sustained, championship-caliber baseball together. Most importantly, thank you for your continued support!”

Condolences to family and friends of Dick Erdall, who passed away this summer after a life that included 1950s youth football coaching in Minneapolis. His coaching contributed to the state powerhouse teams at Washburn High School. He was also a 13th ward alderman in Minneapolis and interim mayor.

Gopher football practice at TCF Bank Stadium is open to the public Friday and begins at 4 p.m.

Next June will be the 30th Bruce Smith Golf Classic at Faribault Golf Club. Organizer Bruce Krinke said the event (named after Faribault native and Gopher Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith) hopes to reach a 30-year total of $250,000. Proceeds are annually given to Faribault schools.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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