Photo - Hannah Foslien (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Eden Prairie, MN - Have you ever heard of an NFL coach inviting beat writers over to the team's facility for some pizza and a closed door film session? Me neither, but that's exactly what happened on Thursday afternoon with new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and a handful of local writers.
While the film session itself was officially "off the record," it's purpose was to explain a little bit of the scheme that coach plans to bring to Minnesota and implement with the Vikings.
After nearly 45 minutes of hard core Xs and Os with Coach Zimmer, he spoke on the record about some of the current situations surrounding the team as they prepare for free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.
One of the more notable topics melded both the information from the film session with the candid post-film conversation. That topic, free agent Jared Allen.
For the past six seasons, Jared Allen led an aggressive Vikings defensive line unit through the opposition and into the backfield in search of the quarterback. Over that time, Allen tallied 85.5 sacks (an average of 14.25 per season) including a memorable 22.0 sack season in 2011. Now a free agent, Allen is preparing to shop the market and is focusing on weighing in on how he may fit into Coach Zimmer's defensive scheme.
Fortunately or unfortunately, based off of what Zimmer divulged on Thursday afternoon, the Allen we all knew and loved, may not be the best fit for what the new coach is looking to do.
"In my opinion Jared is a extremely great football player that's had a fantastic career not only here but elsewhere," Mike Zimmer told the assembled media. "It would be great for him to finish here but I do understand the business side of all this stuff and if it doesn't work out then it doesn't work out."
That said, historically, Zimmer's schemes have not yielded defensive ends who have put up big sack numbers. And according to coach, that's been by design.
During Zimmer's eight years as the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, only two players even breached the double digit sack mark (Geno Atkins 12.5 & Michael Johnson 11.5, both in 2012). And that's not a fluke, that's what Zimmer is looking for.
"That's because we're going to play the run," Zimmer told us Thursday. "It's just what I believe in."
In Zimmer's mind, "playing the run" means that there won't be many defensive ends flying around the outside and into the backfield. Rather than playing the run on their way to the quarterback, Zimmer's defenses get to the quarterback by playing the run.
"I've always taken guys in Cincinnati, Dallas and gotten them to believe that this is the right system for them," Zimmer explained. "I've always used guys in the right way. I also have got them all to believe that this is a team game, it's not an individual game. I don't know how, but we're going to continue to do it."
So where does Jared Allen fit into this equation?
Allen, a guy who has tallied double digit sacks in his last seven seasons and in eight of his ten seasons, is likely to be asked not only change his style of play (to favor the run), but also change the amount of money he demands if he is interested in staying in Minnesota (counted $17 million against the cap last year). That's a lot to ask from a ten year veteran looking for one final contract.
"He's the free agent," Zimmer continued. "He's the one that would have to decide if he wants to come back and fit into what we do and how we do it. He has to decide how much money there needs to be for him to buy into that."
"I love to work with great football players that wanted to fit in, if he wanted to do that then he would be a positive influence on this football team and would continue to be on the franchise. If he doesn't then I'm happy for him. We're going to get this thing going the right way."
Zimmer's candid canter firmly leaves the ball in Jared Allen's court. If he's interested in buying in to the new scheme, to the new coaches and into the new direction of the franchise there will be a place for him, at the right price. If he's not willing to do that, the ship may have officially sailed on the "phantom mullet." A decision that may not be the most popular amongst fans, but given the plan Zimmer is hoping to employ, it may be the right move.
"We've got a lot of holes to fill," Zimmer said of his plans for free agency. "We want to be smart with how we use the money. I think our biggest thing what we're trying to do, we don't want to go crazy in this thing where we continue to be an up and down, one year we're good and one year we're not team. It's important that we build a really good foundation and continue to solidly build this thing toward the goal."
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN