Mike Zimmer's Vikings were soundly beaten in their preseason debut, and he did not mince words when asked for his thoughts at halftime last weekend.
Zimmer ripped his team at the end of the intermission, explaining during a brief interview that he was disappointed with nearly every facet of its lackluster play in the first half of what eventually became a blowout loss to the Broncos.
"I told them it was a very poor performance," Zimmer said. "We're going to scrimmage next week with this same bunch, because we didn't tackle well, we made the wrong checks on defense with the safeties, we throw an interception for a touchdown, we go three-and-out the first two series, terrible punts. So other than that, it's been great.
"We're gonna play next week and the week after, but some of these guys haven't earned it yet."
The preseason isn't exactly the Super Bowl, but what bothered Zimmer most was his team's lack of a sense of urgency. Instead of taking the field as if they're fighting for their livelihoods (which many of them are), Zimmer's Vikings came out flat and were promptly handled by the Broncos, who amassed quite a collection of highlights for one preseason game.
"I'm looking for some guys to compete," Zimmer said when asked what he'd like to see in the second half before quickly walking away from the microphone.
Immediately after the interview, Greg Joseph kicked it away to LeVante Bellamy, who returned it for 62 yards down to the Minnesota 40. Denver was in the end zone seven plays later.
Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen called the kick return as it happened, accurately predicting Zimmer's feelings in real time: "Zim ain't gonna be happy about this."
He wasn't. Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. was asked Thursday about his coach's stern tone following the loss and embraced the necessary dose of reality administered by Doc Zim.
"It's definitely high expectations for sure, as you want for yourself as a player," Smith said during a Thursday appearance on Good Morning Football. "As a coach, you want somebody that's gonna push you and want the best out of you and your team. Coach Zimmer definitely wants that. That's definitely not the outing that we wanted to come out with and show the world.
"But there's a lot more games, a lot more preseason games left, and I'm confident in this team. I know Coach Zimmer is as well. He just wanted to relay the messaging and let the people know, let the team know that we have high expectations. There's not many limitations to our team, I feel like, with the skill set that we have and the team that they built around us. There's no way that we shouldn't go out there and dominate every game."
Expecting to dominate on a weekly basis, while a lofty goal to which all players should aspire, is not quite realistic. Expecting more effort and fundamentally sound play is, though, and Zimmer hasn't gotten that out of his team yet.
Minnesota's turnover in defensive personnel and untimely injuries sank what was setting up to be another promising season in 2020, and it's clear Zimmer did not like what he saw out his 2021 bunch's first on-field action. He knows as well as anyone how quickly things can go south when it comes to job security, and while he's not on the hot seat, he has zero interest in allowing it to even become lukewarm.