The headline battle in the NFC divisional round showcases the Minnesota Vikings hosting the New Orleans Saints Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
And on the surface, the game will be all business when considering each team has the opportunity to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
But there is an undercard battle featuring a personal touch, which pits Saints coach Sean Payton and the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer against each other.
The two head coaches have been close friends since serving together as assistants on the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff under Bill Parcells.
“He and I have had a great relationship,” Payton said of Zimmer. “We lived, I would say, probably a mile and a half, two miles from each other there and did a lot of things together.
“Our families, his daughters babysat my two children. For a period of three years for me — Mike was there longer — all the time I was there we were good friends and still are. We talk all the time about football. There are certain things he might come in and draw up on the board or I might see him about, it’s pretty common. But our families were close and he’s still a good friend.”
While serving under Parcells, Payton points out he and Zimmer also grew close after being on the wrong end of the legendary head coach’s wrath.
“There’s that feeling as you’re all getting hammered by Bill, there is that collective (feeling) that you all have to be close together just for any other reason to survive,” Payton said. “So misery loves company I guess sometimes.
“We’d all have our moments. If it was Zim one day, I would probably doodle on pad ‘probably better him than me today’ and then if it was me, I’m sure Zim would be doodling the same thing.”
The relationship between Payton and Zimmer also provides proof that opposites will attract, regardless of walk of life or profession.
“We are pretty opposite, I think,” Zimmer said in a teleconference. “Sean is a great guy and a heck of a coach.”
Payton is regarded as possessing a lively and out-going personality, and he let it show recently with a postgame locker room celebration dance that went viral.
Zimmer is known to be blunt and up-front, but add the two coaches together and there is no denying the chemistry on or off the field, especially on a golf course or when it came to families.
“We were professional driving range partners,” Payton jokingly said. “I liked in Timarron, he lived a half a mile away and we were frustrated golfers I would say.
“But we enjoyed the same things. We enjoyed football, our families and golf. We did a lot of things together and his daughters were great to Meghan and Connor. And when Adam (Zimmer) finished college, I hired him here and his career got started. We’re close friends.”
Another area that the two men share surrounds a highly competitive drive, as pointed out by Saints fullback Zach Line.
Before signing with the Saints, Line spent four seasons with the Vikings and he complimented the coaching styles of both…