Think again about what happened here. Zimmer — who coached Deion Sanders and Darren Woodson in Dallas — volunteered the fact that Rhodes was supposed to cover Nelson, until players decided on their own plan. Newman — who was a rookie when Zimmer became the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, who followed the coach to Cincinnati and Minnesota, who lobbied for Zimmer as a head coach and once said the coach could be enshrined in Canton based on what he had done to make teams better — apparently was part of a group that decided not to listen to him in this instance.
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Evidently, so was Rhodes, whose development into a Pro Bowl corner has largely been on Zimmer’s watch, and who said after the game the Vikings’ defensive backs settled on the plan not during the game, but in practice last week.
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“We felt as a team, as players, we came together, and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers,” he said. “Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That’s how we felt as DBs, that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we’d always played against them and played our sides, we never followed, so that’s what we felt as DBs. That’s what we went with.”
Because of injuries to each player, Rhodes hadn’t faced Nelson since Nov. 23, 2014, so it’s tough to use history as a benchmark. But that isn’t the main point here. Players whom Zimmer has developed, who would be seen as some of the coach’s star pupils, suddenly decided not to follow a game plan — and apparently not to tell Zimmer, defensive coordinator George Edwards nor defensive backs coach Jerry Gray about it. Did they lose faith in the scheme after a 34-6 loss to the Colts last Sunday? Did they think their ideas wouldn’t be heard if they approached coaches with them?