FRISCO, Texas – Mike Zimmer coached for the Dallas Cowboys for a grand total of 12 years, including their 1995 Super Bowl campaign.
He might be the head coach in Minnesota now, but it's safe to say Zimmer was well familiar with the dominant Cowboys teams of the 1990's. That's why, when he was asked about it Sunday morning, it carried a bit more gravity to hear the longtime coach compare this year's Cowboys to those great teams of the past.
"Yeah – it does. It reminds me a lot of what we had in Dallas at that time," he said.
The comparisons are evident and have been talked about openly all season. Behind the strength of a dominant running game, the Cowboys are winning games with the help of smart decision-making from their quarterback and plenty of help from a talented cast around him.
Having watched the Cowboys on tape, Zimmer said it all started with the offensive line – anchored by the likes of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
"The offensive line is unbelievable," he said. "They're by far the best in the league that I've seen. Smith is the best lineman in the league by far. But they've got a lot of big, physical guys."
Not content to praise just the offensive line, Zimmer was sure to include the strong play of Ezekiel Elliott. And, while Elliott has been fantastic with 1,199 rushing yards through his first 11 games, it was still impressive to hear Zimmer compare him to the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
"The back is special, he's a physical, impact player that can make all the cuts," he said. "He's great. He reminds me of Emmitt in a lot of ways. He's got speed to the perimeter, he catches the ball well, he's good in protection."
Not surprisingly, given Zimmer's hard-nosed reputation, is the fact that he sought to build the Vikings in a similar mold for 2016. Minnesota started training camp with one of the game's most physical running backs in Adrian Peterson, and they had a young, smart decision-maker at quarterback in Tedd Bridgewater.
"That was kind of my plan going into the season, was trying to get our offensive line like that, because going into the season we had Adrian and Teddy, obviously," Zimmer said.
Injuries have perhaps been crueler to the Vikings than any other team in the league, however. Bridgewater was lost for the season due to a knee injury during the final days of training camp, and Peterson has been missing since Week 2 with a knee injury of his own.
The offensive line hasn't fared much better. Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Kalil has been on injured reserve since September, while other valuable pieces like Andre Smith and Jake Long have suffered season-ending injuries as well.
However much the Vikings might want to emulate this week's opposition, it might be a strategy that has to wait until 2017.
"So it was kind of my plan going in there, kind of to be like them. But yeah it does remind me a lot," Zimmer said.