A disastrous injury to its starting quarterback has left Minnesota with a big question mark. Coach Mike Zimmer turned to a trusted friend to help find an answer. Plus readers react to the Colin Kaepernick-anthem flap
Disaster-control class was in session Tuesday afternoon, via cell phone from upstate New York to suburban Minneapolis. The instructor, Bill Parcells, was reminding the student, Mike Zimmer, what he learned in his long apprenticeship as an NFL assistant, including the four seasons Zimmer worked under Parcells in Dallas a decade ago.
Zimmer and Parcells spoke twice Tuesday—Zimmer considers Parcells the closest thing to a pro football mentor that he has had—for a total of about 20 minutes. The first time was mid-afternoon when Zimmer didn’t know for certain the diagnosis of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater—and the fate of his Super Bowl-contending team, after Bridgewater went down without contact in a simple practice drill in Eden Prairie, Minn. But when they talked later in the afternoon, Zimmer had a pretty good idea that the injury suffered by Bridgewater was season-ending.
“There are situations that won’t allow you to succeed,” Parcells told Zimmer. “I don’t think this is one of them.”
The Vikings announced later Tuesday that the starting quarterback on this rising team suffered a torn ACL to his left knee “and other structural damage.” Bridgewater is out for the year. It will be a challenge for him to return healthy for the 2017 season. For now, the Vikings will troll the league for a veteran backup to support the current veteran backup Shaun Hill, now the starter. Hill will inspire confidence in no one. He’s a career backup, with a 16-18 record as a starter. In four of his past five NFL seasons, he hasn’t started a game. In the one recent year he did start—in St. Louis in 2014—he went 3-5. He is 36. But he’s what Minnesota has.
When I talked to the 75-year-old Parcells on Tuesday night, he replayed the classic no-one’s-going-to-feel-sorry-for-you shtick to me that he relayed to Zimmer a couple hours earlier.
It’s not the first time Parcells has used it with young coaches. It’s a credo he’s believes in strongly, because it’s worked with teams he’s coached.
“I told him, ‘The first thing you need to know is this: Everyone in the organization, and that includes some of the players and the coaches, are going to think they have an excuse now,” Parcells said. “Once the shock is over, probably 48 hours from now, they’re all gonna come to you and look at you and say, ‘What are you gonna do?’ Because you’re charged with winning games now, no matter what you have on your team. You need to figure out what works—what recipe works. And tomorrow morning, once the shock wears off, nobody’s gonna give a s---. It’s his problem. He’s gotta figure out how to win now.”
“There’s 100 sets of eyes on you from behind. Players, coach, front office. They’re all screaming, ‘You gotta do something! What are you gonna do?’ And you’re going to have to figure it out.”
Parcells said he told Zimmer about his experience when Phil Simms went down for the Giants late in 1990 with a broken foot. Unproven backup Jeff Hostetler took over and led the Giants to an unlikely Super Bowl win over Buffalo.
“I went through this,” Parcells said. “We had a backup quarterback who was unproven, Jeff Hostetler, and I remember vividly hearing all the experts then say, ‘No one’s ever won the Super Bowl with such an unproven guy.’ I said to my players, ‘We are not losing because we’re playing Jeff Hostetler. I guarantee you that.’ There were ways to win those games, and it was up to us to figure them out.
“There are ways to win these games. [Zimmer] has a good running game. You know he can coach defense, and they’ve got a good defense. Al Davis had some great advice for me once, and I told [Zimmer] this: You’re driving the train, and there’s 100 sets of eyes on you from behind. Players, coach, front office. They’re all screaming, ‘You gotta do something! What are you gonna do?’ And you’re going to have to figure it out.”
That’s the big question around Minnesota. With Bridgewater, the Vikings were peers with Green Bay atop the NFC North. What are they now? Who are they now? Zimmer has to wake up this morning and figure out a way to beat Tennessee in 11 days. That’s all that matters.
I asked Parcells: “How do you think Zimmer will respond?”
Parcells said: “Like he is as a man: Resolute. Determined.”
The Vikings seasons depends on it.
Now for your email:
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The Colin Kaepernick story is the perfect storm, an intersection of Black Lives Matter, CNN, SportsCenter, team dynamics, The New York Times op-ed page … and what else? For the mailbag today, I thought it best to let you have your say. There are times in the internet age when you open the door and let the world walk in and have a take. This is one of those times.
I picked out 10 opinions from an overflowing bag of them.
OF COURSE HE GOT HIS MONEY FIRST
Colin Kaepernick has the right to not stand for the anthem, as much as I disagree with it; but would he be taking this “damn the consequences” stand if he hadn't already secured a substantial portion of his guaranteed contract? I would have to think his actions would be different if he was playing for the league-minimum salary. Sorry, but this bogus stand rings hollow to me.
—Sean, Baldwin, N.Y.
FREE SPEECH IN HIS PRIVATE LIFE, NOT HIS PUBLIC LIFE, IS OKAY
Yes, you are correct that there is freedom of speech in this country, but Colin Kaepernick should practice his free speech on his own time. He represents both the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL while he is on that field and should act accordingly. I also have free speech but I couldn’t come into my office and hand out flyers pushing my political views and I couldn’t decorate my cube with items that were not in line with my company’s standards. If he doesn’t want to stand for the national anthem then he should find another line of work. Or go to a baseball game on his own time and sit for the anthem. I don’t understand why you and others seem to think it’s acceptable for him to use “work” time to push his personal agenda. It’s simply not the time or place and that’s my problem with his action. Not the action itself, with which I disagree but understand.
HE SHOULD STAY IN THE LOCKER ROOM DURING THE ANTHEM
The 49ers have no obligation to provide Kaepernick with a forum to protest. Not a free speech matter. If they want to have him remain in the locker room during the anthem, they are within their rights to do so. And that is what I would do, if I didn't cut him outright.
THE NINERS COULD CURB THIS BEHAVIOR
This is neither for/against Kaepernick sitting for the anthem. Rather it is to correct you when discussing the First Amendment. The First Amendment prohibits the Government from enacting laws that abridge a person’s freedom of speech. As the 49ers are a private organization, they are able to establish rules and restrictions as they choose. To illustrate the point that the NFL can establish its own rules.
1. The NFL has fined players for having personal messages (i.e., Cam Heyward wore adhesive eye black with the word “Iron” and “Head” to honor his father who died).
2. Various players fined for wearing commercial logos or company names that are not approved by the league.
3. Fines for talking poorly about referees.
4. Any gesture that resembles a gang sign.
5. And of course, Marshawn Lynch for not talking to the media.
So no, a player does not have the right to exercise free speech [while in a work environment] as a right under the First Amendment.
IN PRAISE OF THE PRINCIPAL
I applaud Kaepernick for taking a stand. I sat during the national anthem at the many baseball and football games I attended during the last several years of the Vietnam War, to protest the ridiculous U.S. involvement in the Vietnam quagmire and the unnecessary killing of thousands of our young men and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians. Thankfully, no one bothered me in the slightest, or even said anything, either in Chicago, where I went to White Sox and Cubs games, or in Columbus, where I went to Ohio State games, other than one of my younger cousins, who politely tried to convince me that I should stand. One has to stand up, or in this case, sit down, for what one believes in. I am not black, but I can totally relate to what Kaepernick is doing. Too many black people have been killed for no good reason. It has to stop.
BOB HATES KAEPERNICK
What Colin Kaepernick did was the ultimate in disgrace to not only the NFL but also the 49ers and every person who has fought for our country. If it weren't for the people in our armed forces fighting and sacrificing everything for our freedoms, he wouldn't even have the opportunity to get paid the millions he makes playing a game. He is a disgrace to his teammates, and every other American who believes in our flag and the freedoms it stands for. God bless America and the hell with Colin Kaepernick and everyone who supports him.
THIS SOUTHERN VET ADMIRES KAEPERNICK
As a Southern white man who served in the military during the Vietnam war (how is that for profiling?), I understand Mr. Kaepernick’s position and applaud his bravery. For those who criticize Mr. Kaepernick for stating his beliefs while they use the American flag and veterans of war to justify their ignorance I could only wish that they had been blessed with the same kind of parents as Mr. Kaepernick.
A HALF-CENTURY LATER, ANOTHER SITTEE APPLAUDS
Absolutely CK has the right to sit down. There is no law to be broken here. Anyone who would force him to stand has no basis to do that. In 1969 a group of us refused to stand at a D-1 football game. We loved the country, but hated those prosecuting an unjust war. Jingoism is not patriotism. Time to retire this stuff at mere ball games.
—David W. Henley
THIS SEEMS EXTREME
I think he should be suspended for six games. True, we have free speech in the USA, but purposely sitting for our National Anthem is inexcusable. It is DISRESPECT in the first degree.
A SAN FRANCISCAN IS TICKED OFF
I disagree 100 percent with Kap's approach to this issue. He is cratering as a QB. As his employer I would be concerned he is not fully committed to what he is paid to do—play football with a laser-like focus and help his team to win. I do not see how he accomplishes these goals when his mind is clearly on other things come game day. I just don't see how he can put himself above his team, his teammates, 49er fans and his employer, which is what he appears to be doing in my opinion. I think it is silly how he approaches his profession and his beliefs. I think he comes off as immature and selfish, not courageous and humble. Gandhi and Martin Luther King seem to have been quiet, humble men. Kap is ruining whatever goodwill he had left. A classic tale of self implosion.
—Bill DeKlerk, San Francisco
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