Throughout his career in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings head coach has dealt with a number of difficult events and obstacles.
When the sun set on Saturday evening, no one could have imagined that it would be the last night in the life of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
But unfortunately it was as Sparano unexpectedly passed away on Sunday after being found unconscious in his home. His family and the Vikings organization now have to figure out how to move forward in their lives without the coach.
For Sparano’s family, these next few months will be incredibly taxing. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer knows exactly what Sparano’s family is dealing with though.
Back in 2009 when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals, Zimmer returned home from the team’s facilities to find his wife Vikki unresponsive in their bedroom. She was later pronounced dead and just like that, Zimmer lost the love of his life.
To cope with his wife’s sudden passing, the current Vikings head coach turned to football. The Bengals had a game just three days after Vikki’s death, but Zimmer still coached in the matchup because he believed that is what his wife would have wanted him to do.
Now almost 10 years after his wife’s passing, Minnesota’s head coach has to deal with the sudden loss of another friend in Sparano.
Zimmer and Sparano spent four seasons together on the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff from 2003 to 2006. During their careers, both men learned under the guidance of former NFL head coach Bill Parcells and this connection eventually led to Zimmer hiring Sparano to be the Vikings’ offensive line coach in 2016.
In a statement released by Minnesota’s head coach on Sunday, Zimmer regarded Sparano as, “a great friend,” and someone who, “will be sorely missed by all.”
For a Vikings team that is heading into 2018 as one of the top contenders to win Super Bowl LIII, this tragedy is the latest hurdle Zimmer and Minnesota will have to overcome since the team hired the head coach in 2014.
Since joining the Vikings four years ago, Zimmer has been able to guide the franchise to success despite a number of obstacles being thrown his way.
In 2014, Adrian Peterson’s child abuse scandal came about just days after Minnesota won their first game with their new head coach. Zimmer found a way to gather his remaining players left on the roster and lead the Vikings to seven wins (four more than the previous season) without the help of the best running back in the league.
As Minnesota was preparing for the 2016 season, Vikings starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury that knocked him out for the entire year. That season, Zimmer was also dealing with serious eye issues that required him to undergo more than seven surgeries.
Despite all of this going on, the Vikings managed to finish 2016 with eight wins thanks to the leadership of their head coach.
While Minnesota’s loss on Sunday was not a player, it is still a tragedy that could have a significant impact on the team’s upcoming season. Whether the effect on the Vikings ends up being negative or positive remains to be seen.
But with Zimmer still the team’s head coach, Minnesota at least has the right guy leading the way.