Posted January 15, 2014

Mike Zimmer hired as coach of Vikings

AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, NFC North, NFL Coaches
Mike Zimmer is finally graduating to the next level.

Mike Zimmer is finally graduating to the next level. (John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Longtime Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, long one of the most respected assistants in the NFL, has been hired by the Minnesota Vikings to be their next head coach. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was among the first with the news. Zimmer will replace Leslie Frazier, who was fired after the Vikings finished with a 5-10-1 mark in 2013. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Vikings interviewed Zimmer over the last couple of days and didn’t let him leave before agreeing to a deal, even though they had plans in place to have second interviews with other candidates.

Zimmer had been the Bengals’ defensive coordinator since 2008. In the year before, Cincinnati’s defense ranked 17th in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted metrics; they’ve never finished lower than 17th since and ranked fifth in 2013. He did a similar turnaround with the Dallas Cowboys defense from 2000 through ’06 after spending 1994 through ’99 as the team’s defensive backs coach.

Zimmer has interviewed for multiple head coaching positions in the last few years, but the word seems to be that his blunt style has been at odds with front offices who don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth. According to Bill Parcells, who inherited Zimmer in Dallas in 2003, that quality is one that will make Zimmer successful as he transitions to the next level.

MORE COVERAGE: Lions pick Caldwell | Whisenhunt joins Titans | Grading recent hires

“You want my prototype? It’s the Belichicks and Zimmers,” Parcells told the Cincinnati Enquirer in August of last year. “They grew up with it, they get it. He got it at a young age. Mike is a little high-strung, a little bit like me, but I don’t know what they are waiting for with this guy because he has leadership qualities and he can coach.”

He is the son of Bill Zimmer, a former defensive assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Vikings are a team in transition on both sides of the ball, but Zimmer is not afraid of daunting assignments — between his jobs with the Cowboys and Bengals, he was the defensive coordinator for the 2007 Atlanta Falcons, a team that was torn apart by the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal and the Bobby Petrino debacle, in which Petrino deserted the team late in the season.

Zimmer’s subsequent reflections on Petrino have not been positive in any way, shape or form.

“When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people’s families and doesn’t have enough guts to finish out the year, I’m not a part of it,” Zimmer told the Bengals’ official website in October 2010. “And you can put that in the Arkansas News Gazette. I don’t really give a [bleep]. He’s a coward, he ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of families, kids, because he didn’t have enough [guts] to stay there and finish the job. And that’s the truth. Most people in football have enough courage about him and enough fight to stick it out and not quit halfway through the year. It’s cowardly.

“He came in and said he resigned, [said] he’d talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has talked to him since,” Zimmer said. “Not that anybody wanted to. He’s a gutless [bleep]. You can quote that.”

The Bengals’ most recent season ended with a 27-10 wild-card loss to the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 5. Zimmer said around that time that he knew he was in the hunt for possible promotions around the league, but that it was about focusing on the season until the season was over.

“Obviously you get calls from people, I got texts and somebody sees you on the street and they’ll say something,” he said. “But like I’ve said before, I would feel awful for these guys in the locker room here if I was concentrating on getting a job or concentrating on doing an interview. My job is to do the very best that I can for these players in here because they’ve busted their rear ends for me. As long as they bust their butts for me and I bust my butt for them, then we’re good. And then whatever happens after that happens.”

That focus and fire are two characteristics that had a lot of people wondering why it took so long for some NFL team to make Zimmer their head man.

“Zim does a great job of identifying who to push and when,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has said. “He helps me by being the guy who puts his foot up their butt, getting them moving in the right direction so I don’t have to be the one to do it all the time.”

49 comments
x72
x72

I'm sensing playoffs

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Wouldn't let him leave (before agreeing to a deal) ?


I think I dated that chick... 

VforViking
VforViking

Really like this hire.  I hope Zimmer cleans house and then gets a real defense on the field next season.  Good luck to him fixing the QB issue -- he'll need it!

MarkCalasade
MarkCalasade

This is the hire the Lions should have made rather than hiring Caldwell despite Zimmerman not being a QB guru. I would say this is the hire Jerry Jones should have made when first he hired Wade Phillips and then Jason Garrett, but let's be honest. God could be the Cowboys' HC and still be unable to fix everything Jerry Jones screws up on a daily basis.

MatthewEugeneHaag
MatthewEugeneHaag

Smart hire....very smart.  Great at running a Defense (which the Vikings need some help in) and he's also a well liked individual by his players.  Firing Frazier ruffled some feathers in the locker room but this should smooth things over.  Now he needs a smart OC and a good QB (trade or draft) and then we can get this train back on track.

PWINGS
PWINGS

While I'm happy for Zimmer finally getting a well-deserved opportunity as a head coach, I'm also disappointed for two reasons:

1) He deserves better than to work for Zygi Wilf

2) I was hoping that if the Packers fired DC Dom Capers, they'd hire Zim to run the defense. Not going to happen now. Damn!

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

Meanwhile the Browns are stalking Mike Munchak


JoeMoon
JoeMoon

Wow! "Adam Schefter was one of the first with the news"

Name branding has become the "flopping" of journalism. 


JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

Good hire.  But, the Vikings need to find a quarterback.  They continue to win just enough games to remain in the middle of the draft.  They'll have to trade up.  That's expensive and they'll need to find a team that has a starting quarterback, a high draft pick, and is willing to trade down.

Joe R2
Joe R2

This is a much better hire than Caldwell in Detroit.  How much does Caldwell owe Dungy for landing him 2 head coaching gigs in under 5 years?

tbost4321
tbost4321

Long overdue, and a great move by the Minnesota front office.  Zimmer is the coach that any of a dozen franchises need: an old school, hard nosed SOB that neither takes nor gives any BS.  


Being a defensive-minded guy, it'll be interesting to see who he brings in as OC, and what impact that has on Peterson. 

x72
x72

Current NFC North Power Rankings

1. Vikings (great hire)

2. Bears (quality squad)

3. Lions (talent is there)

4. Packers (will take a few steps back)

gyffesme
gyffesme

Man, I wish he were still coordinatin' Dallas' D. Good luck in Minn, Coach.

msprowles
msprowles

I would rather the Bengals got rid of Lewis and promoted Zimmer...

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

It seems they like guys with Z's in their names in Minnezota.

muser
muser

....just as long as Pedro doesn't get him in a headlock...........

MarkBecker
MarkBecker

@PWINGS dont worry..within a year or two Zimmer will let Zigi have it and will move on

George
George

@JoeMoon Schefter is a narcissist clown who, if he can't find a "scoop"

will make one up.   Stop worshiping that attention ho

Craig
Craig

@JoeMoon I remember that Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.  I don't remember, and frankly don't care, who was the first reporter to say he was dead.  These folks live in their own little world, and the rest of us really don't much care who knew first.  There are few situations where the reporter gets credit for being first outside of their own competition...because it means nothing to anyone else.

jroane
jroane

@x72 O.k. why don't you wake up now. I don't care how good a coach he is, his team is the only team in the division that doesn't know who it's opening day QB is going to be. Until that is settled, they are last in the division. Any team that started 3 QBs is in serious trouble.

therednorth1
therednorth1

@x72 I expect the Vikings to improve, yeah, but the Bears have one of the most respected new coaches in the league, and let's not forget that the Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in football.

rainman90
rainman90

@x72 So the one team from the division that made the playoffs is now the worst, and the team with just five wins in 2013 is now the best? Makes perfect sense!

tbost4321
tbost4321

@x72 

Unless Peyton retires and becomes Caldwell's OC, Detroit ain't passing Green Bay.  Peyton and (to a lesser extent) Tom Moore were the driving force behind that offense.  No Peyton, no Moore = 2 wins for Caldwell's Colts. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

@gyffesme  If I were a Cowboys fan (I'm not), I'd wish Jimmie Johnson or Bill Parcells was still the head coach!

PWINGS
PWINGS

@msprowles  Zimmer dealing directly with incompetent, tight-fisted owner / GM Mike Brown? That's reality TV that I'd watch in a heartbeat. Put THAT on Hard Knocks, HBO!!


Marvin is a competent coach and a good man, but he's also a "Yes!" man who will work cheap and that's precisely why he's held the Bengals job for so long. Mike Brown should be VERY thankful that the NFL has Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and the departed Al Davis as owners. They've taken a LOT of heat off of him.

6marK6
6marK6

@msprowles I have to agree. It does not seem like Lewis is a good game manager and chronic underachiever. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

@MarkBecker@PWINGS  Agreed. Zim is cut from the same cloth as Mike Westhoff, retired special teams coach of the Jets. Two of the few people in life with enough sense to reserve their impatience and bad temper for the a'holes who really deserve it. Both Zim and Westhoff reminded me of my best times playing football while watching them on HBO Hard Knocks. Tough but fair and honest.

jroane
jroane

@6marK6 @msprowles That may be true but it's funny how you blame Lewis and neither of the coordinators, who are more directly responsible for both sides of the ball not playing up to expectations in the playoffs. When they needed a dominant defensive performance, Zimmer's crew fell short. Of course, the QB derailed any hopes for the offense.

PWINGS
PWINGS

@JonathanRoach@Rickapolis  Don't laugh. He'd be great for ticket and jersey sales and he's better than anyone they've got now. (Not that that's a big trick!)

PWINGS
PWINGS

@Whiskeyfire@jroane@x72  Tolzien, Wallace and Flynn weren't competing with Rodgers for the starting job. They were just filling in while he was injured. Ponder, Cassell and Freeman (and Webb in 2012) WERE competing for the starting job. If they use their 1st or 2nd round pick for a QB, the problem worsens. Big difference!

6marK6
6marK6

@jroane @6marK6 @msprowles The head coach in question has been there sometime and is responsible for having hired the coordinators. If you are going to hang it on the coordinators, what does the head coach actually do?

Whiskeyfire
Whiskeyfire

@jroane@6marK6@msprowlesPlease tell me how Cincinnatis defense came up short? Was it holding Rivers to 128 yards passing? Maybe it was the short field that Dalton gave the Chargers with his interceptions.

PWINGS
PWINGS

@6marK6@PWINGS@JonathanRoach@Rickapolis  Cassel will be 32 yrs. old this coming season. He may be an effective QB for a year or two but he's not their long-term solution. If they give up on Ponder as you suggest, they'd better draft another potential franchise QB and let Cassel mentor him. After the Freeman train wreck, I'm not sure Zigi's going to go for another free agent castoff.