Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times sports editor Gary Larson, former Princeton Union-Eagle editor and sports columnist Luther Dorr, former Times intern Logan Marxhausen and sports fan Ben Johnson. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: The Minnesota Vikings have hired former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as their new head coach, succeeding the fired Leslie Frazier. Zimmer, 57, has been a defensive coach in the National Football League for many seasons. He has started to assemble his staff, bringing in offensive guru Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator. What do you think of the hiring of Zimmer.
-Dorr: I had never heard of Zimmer until two weeks ago so I have very little to say about the hiring, other than that I hope it works out. Lots of people have already hopped onto the Zimmer bandwagon but I have nothing on which to base an opinion. I know more about Turner but have never heard of the guy reported to be in line to be the defensive coordinator. I’ll have an opinion by the end of December, 2014.
-Marxhausen: HBO’s behind-the-scenes show “Hard Knocks” revealed that Zimmer is very down to earth and is not afraid to get in a player’s face. After 35 years as an assistant, Zimmer finally took the next step with the Minnesota Vikings. The hiring of Zimmer is going to give the Vikings a different edge they haven’t seen before. With an assistant that has seen nearly everything the league can offer, he is taking the reins with the likes of Turner and apparently George Edwards as his defensive coordinator. Zimmer says that he is going to be very involved with the defense on game day. The hands-on approach shows that he does have a chip on his shoulder and gives me a secure feeling as a Vikings fan.
-Larson: I would have preferred the Vikings hire a coach with head-coaching experience, but it appears there weren’t many of those available. Zimmer looks like a good fit for Minnesota. He’s displayed emotion and fire as an assistant coach and that’s something that was lacking with Frazier. Viking players seem to like the choice. I liked that Zimmer said he could envision the Vikings being handed the Super Bowl trophy. I’ll settle for a team that doesn’t have so many breakdowns in a game and can contend for the North Division title and playoffs. For now. The quarterback position should now be at the top of the team’s agenda.
-Johnson: I love the signing of Zimmer. His coaching style is exactly what the Vikings need. He has a great track record of good defenses and is respected by his players. He conducts his coaching style with energy and enthusiasm. I would suspect the team will be more focused on football and the off-the-field troubles of Vikings players will be fewer and farther between. It will be interesting to see how Turner uses running back Adrian Peterson and handles the offense. If Zimmer’s defensive expertise can turn the defense around and the Vikings can address the quarterback situation, I think the Vikings will be in a good position to compete for the division title next season.
•Question: The Denver Broncos topped the New England Patriots 26-16 and the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. What did you think of Sunday’s games?
-Dorr: The games were good, Peyton Manning proving that he’s not washed up at the age of 37. I never buy into that stuff about Manning against Brady because they don’t play each other – they play against the other team’s defense. It was pretty simple: Denver was better than New England. Late in the Seattle-San Francisco game it looked as though the 49ers were going to rally for a win. But Colin Kaepernick, touted by some as the next great quarterback, had three turnovers and that was enough to give Seattle the win.
Marxhausen: Both these games were extremely entertaining. Even though the Broncos-Patriots game finished with a margin of 10 points, it was jaw-dropping all the way up to the failed two-point conversion by the Patriots. The Patriots were not able to run the ball as successfully as they had in the previous playoff games and that hurt their chances of scoring, especially when the Broncos only recorded one punt during the game. The Seahawks’ victory was intense to the very end. Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman’s comments at the end of the game following his play to break up what might have been the winning touchdown by became the big story that many were talking about. It was a very intense postgame interview for a very intense NFC championship game. Out of all 32 teams, it is clearly the two who reached the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was able to win at home against Tom Brady and Seattle’s defense was able to outlast the 49er defense.
-Larson: Fan hope championship games are entertaining and both games were, especially the NFC game which went down to the final seconds. Peyton Manning outperformed Tom Brady and credit the protection Denver’s offensive line gave him and the Broncos’ defense for that. How even was the San Francisco-Seattle game? Both teams finished with 308 yards. While Colin Kaepernick turned the ball over three times, he was the player who kept the 49ers in the game and nearly pulled out a victory. Wouldn’t you love to see either Kaepernick or Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson wearing a Viking jersey?
-Johnson: I thought Tom Brady and the Patriots would give Denver more of a game but Denver’s defense held them to just three points until the fourth quarter. Denver looks good and has to be considered the Super Bowl favorite. The NFC championship game was fun to watch right to the end. I was glad to see Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers lose after the unsportsmanlike act Kaepernick portrayed last week against the Panthers. Then Richard Sherman of the Seahawks took poor sportsmanship to another level. After breaking up a pass in the end zone and sealing a victory for the Seahawks, Sherman deliberately taunted 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and proceeded to go on national television to rant about his greatness. It’s sad the NFL has “accepted” a culture that fosters this type of behavior. My hope is that Peyton Manning quietly, and with class, puts Mr. Sherman into his place during the Super Bowl.
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