In the end, it may have been Mike Zimmer's "my way or the highway" style that got him fired after eight seasons coaching the Minnesota Vikings.
Hours after Zimmer was fired Monday, team owner/president Mark Wilf made it abundantly clear that the new head coach needs to be a "strong leader" with the ability to "communicate and collaborate."
Wilf didn't throw Zimmer under the bus, but a little reading between the lines suggests that Zimmer's style featured a dearth of communication or collaboration.
Just ask any of Zimmer's six offensive coordinators during his eight-year reign.
During the 2016 season, the Vikings rattled off five straight wins and then lost two in a row, followed by the stunning news of Norv Turner stepping down as offensive coordinator. Coaches don't just quit in the middle of a season, especially on a first place team.
Turner told Albert Breer of MMQB that it was a "difference of opinions" on how to run the offense. "He was pretty set in his ideas and his reasons and I hope that we’ll always continue to be friends," Turner said of Zimmer, according to Breer.
That doesn't sound like a coach willing to collaborate, not even with Turner, who is one of the most respected offensive minds in NFL history.
Two years later Zimmer fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reporting that Zimmer made the decision to put DeFilippo's head on the chopping block because he didn't run the ball enough.
Keep in mind that Zimmer fired DeFilippo during the final month of the season despite, just months prior, defending his decision to block Kevin Stefanski from interviewing with the Giants because, as he said, he's loyal to his coaches and doesn't fire them after bad seasons.
“I get criticized for blocking guys and stuff like that, but loyalty, to me, is a big thing, right? So I come in here four years ago and the offense is 29th, 27th, 26th. But I keep them," Zimmer told the Star Tribune. "So the first time our offense is pretty good, then I’m supposed to let all my coaches leave? I don’t think that’s right. If I’m going to be loyal to them and not fire them after they don’t have good years, then I don’t think they should not be loyal to me.”
Zimmer's way or the highway. Ask Kirk Cousins, who wasn't even comfortable enough to call a timeout without Zimmer's permission.
"I just let Zim handle the timeouts because I never know quite what the coaches want to do," Cousins said after Minnesota's loss to the Cowboys on Halloween. Zimmer later claimed that was a miscommunication, but how is that even possible after for years together unless the relationship just isn't very good?
Right tackle Brian O'Neill also suggested there was a disconnect with the players and Zimmer, saying Monday that a "culture shift" will be welcome. Like many others, O'Neill echoed Wilf's message about communication and collaboration being of the utmost importance for a new coach.
"Getting everybody pushing in the same direction and working together in a collaborative environment that's enjoyable to work in. I think some more energy throughout the building could be a good thing," he said, noting that things as simple as someone saying 'Hey, how you doing?' could go a long way.
If saying hello in the hallway was too much to ask, then it should be no surprise that when Zimmer barks out in a press conference that he doesn't care about Justin Jefferson's pursuit of Rand Moss' franchise record for receiving yards in season.
And then you have one of the leaders on the team, middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, acknowledging that his relationship with Zimmer wasn't ideal and that running a "fear-based organization" is not the way to go.
At the end of the day, Zimmer is gone and it's become more clear than ever that Zimmer did it his way and his way only – and while his way was good enough to outperform some of his predecessors, it wasn't good enough to bring the Vikings to the top of the NFL.