INDIANAPOLIS -- The prevailing opinion on why Mike Zimmer interviewed for so many head coaching jobs but never actually got any of them was because he was too gruff and too honest during job interviews. Which apparently was too much of a turnoff for whomever was hiring for those positions.
But when asked Thursday about Zimmer's reputation for gruffness and whether he displayed any of those tendencies before he landed the Vikings head coaching job, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman began to laugh.
Gruff? No, Zimmer's not gruff, Spielman said. At least not off the field.
"[The gruffness], that's not true," Spielman said. "He may be gruff between those lines. But I called agents of the players he coached. As demanding as he is, I've never heard so much respect for him as a coach. He has that 'it' factor for being a coach who holds guys accountable. Yet the players love him for that. That's really one thing that stuck with me about him."
Mostly, Spielman liked the chemistry he had with Zimmer, particularly since they were both the sons of coaches and both have many of the same philosophies on coaching and team-building. Even though the Vikings interviewed seven candidates in an eight-day span to replace Leslie Frazier, the chemistry was perhaps the biggest attribute Zimmer possessed.
"How he operates in the office, I've learned a lot myself," Spielman said. "He has a reputation for taking guys that are good football players -- some guys who people thought were done - but getting them to play up to their capabilities. I can't tell you how impressed I've been with Mike."