Mike Zimmer has prepared his entire life for this. The no-nonsense defensive wizard got his first coaching gig in 1979, spent 20 years chess-mastering against NFL offenses, and finally earned a head coaching job when he inherited the 5-10-1 Vikings in 2014. He was 57. In four seasons, Zim has captured the NFC North crown twice, including during last year’s thrilling 13-3 surge to the NFL Championship Game. Most impressive? His 39-25 record with the Vikes was accomplished with youngster Teddy Bridgewater, the shattered remnants of Sam Bradford, and Case freakin’ Keenum helming the most important position in football. Zimmer will enter 2018 with free-agent prize Kirk Cousins at quarterback, electrifying second-year halfback Dalvin Cook, and the league’s nastiest defense. The retirement-age coach knows he has one final job to do.
Readers’ Choice: Mike Zimmer