Vikings assistants earned the spot next to their fathers
They were running around NFL training camps as kids, and perhaps sometimes having too much fun.
Now, Zimmer, 30, and Turner, 32, are all grown up. They are assistants for the Minnesota Vikings, and sons of the two most important coaches on the team.
Adam’s father is first-year head coach Mike Zimmer. Scott’s father is offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has 15 years experience as an NFL head man.
The Vikings are one of seven NFL teams with a head coach who has a son as an assistant, but the only one that also has the son of a coordinator on the staff.
“It’s rare,” Norv Turner said.
Adam was an assistant for seven years with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs before joining his father on the Cincinnati Bengals last year, when Mike was defensive coordinator and Adam an assistant defensive backs coach. Now, Adam is Minnesota’s linebackers coach.
Scott was an assistant for six years in college and high school before becoming a Carolina Panthers assistant for two years. He finally joined his father last year when Norv was offensive coordinator and Scott wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. Now, Scott is Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach.
“He felt like No. 1, he should go earn his own stripes, so to say, and No. 2, he was fortunate to be with Gary Gibbs, Romeo Crennel and Gregg Williams as defensive coordinators,” Mike Zimmer said. “I think if you’re going to have nepotism, it’s, in my opinion, better to go out and earn your way and learn from other people.”
It also helps perception. If a coach’s son proves himself somewhere else, fans and media are less likely to question the selection when he’s hired by his father.
“I think it was important for Scott,” said Norv Turner. “It never bothered me, but Scott kind of did it the hard way. ... I don’t even think of Scott being my son because I know how he got here, and he holds up his part of the deal.”
But Adam and Scott got hooked following their dads around on the football field. Adam was 10 when his father became Cowboys defensive backs coach, and that’s when he set his sights on becoming a coach.
Zimmer played defensive back in high school and at San Antonio’s Trinity University. He hung around his dad as much as he could when Mike was with Dallas from 1994-2006, the last seven years as defensive coordinator.
“You’re kind of starstruck when you’re around (NFL players), but then Deion Sanders was always taking me under his wing,” Adam said. “They would always call me ‘Little Zim.’ Deion would teach me how to dress (for football) and how to wear my socks, so he was like a big brother to me.”
As Adam got older, he helped during drills; he threw footballs to players and even lined up in the backfield during walk-throughs.
After Adam got out of college, he began his coaching career with New Orleans in 2006. As an assistant defensive backs coach in 2009, his last of four seasons there, the Saints won the Super Bowl.
“I kind of wanted to do it on my own because I’ve seen a lot of coaches’ sons follow their dads from place to place, and I kind of want to have my own reputation and learn things the way I want to do things other than just with my dad,” Adam said. “I had cut my teeth in two different organizations (before going to Cincinnati), so I think that helped with respect to the players.”
Scott’s early NFL exposure also was in Dallas, where his father was offensive coordinator from 1991-93 — which included two Super Bowl victories. Scott said he still gets a big hug whenever he sees former Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin.
Scott’s was 12 when his father was named Washington’s head coach in 1994. During his dad’s seven-year run there, players had plenty of fun with Scott.
“My birthday was always during training camp, and the players would always get me and tape me to the bench or put me in an ice bucket,” Scott said. “They would always mess with me, being the coach’s kid. Brian Mitchell and Terry Allen, they were really the ringleaders, and then other guys would get involved.”
Scott said he wanted to be a coach as early as he can remember. After being a backup quarterback at UNLV, he began a coaching odyssey that took him to Oregon State, South County Secondary School in Lorton, Va., and the University of Pittsburgh before he got his first NFL job in 2011 as a Carolina quality control assistant.
When Scott was moving around to various jobs, Norv was head coach of the San Diego Chargers (2007-12). But Scott was content to carve his own niche.
“I think it helps in establishing a reputation, just learning from different people and coaching in different systems,” Scott said. “I wouldn’t have changed anything ... I’m not nave; I know that my father has helped me get a foot in the door in this profession, but I think once you do that, you’ve got to prove yourself.”
Indications are Adam and Scott have been able to do that.
“Adam did a good job,” said Vikings safety Chris Crocker, who was with Adam and his father last year in Cincinnati. “He knew exactly what his dad wanted and how to get it done. They’ve got completely different personalities, though. He yells a lot less than Zim does.”
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said he already has learned plenty from his new position coach.
“Scott really knows a lot,” Ponder said. “He’s really good at knowing the specifics of the quarterback position and the specifics of this offense.”
On a personal level, Adam and Scott relish the extra time they have gotten to spend with their fathers.
When Mike Zimmer got his first head coaching job last January, Adam said it was understood he would follow him to Minnesota. When Norv Turner was talking to Zimmer about joining the staff, it was important that Scott also get a position.
“For about 10 years, we got to spend maybe just one or two weeks a year together,” Scott said. “Now, we get to spend every day together. So it’s been a blessing.”
Sons of coaches
The Vikings’ Mike Zimmer is one of seven NFL head coaches to have a son on his staff. Here’s a rundown:
(Team, Head coach, Son, Position)
Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis, Marcus Lewis, Def. assistant/quality control
Kansas City, Andy Reid, Britt Reid, Quality control
Minnesota, Mike Zimmer, Adam Zimmer, Linebackers coach
New England, Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick, Coaching assist.
St. Louis, Jeff Fisher, Brandon Fisher, Assist. secondary
Seattle, Pete Carroll, Nate Carroll, Assist. wide receivers
Tampa Bay, Lovie Smith, Mikal Smith, Safeties coach