Mike Zimmer, a 20-year veteran NFL assistant coach who worked with Hall of Famer Bill Parcells in Dallas before going to the Cincinnati Bengals’ as their defensive coordinator for the past six seasons, has been hired as new head coach for the Vikings NFL sources have confirmed.
Zimmer has been in town since Tuesday interviewing with the Wilf’s and General Manager Rick Spielman.
Zimmer has never been a head coach at any level will replace Leslie Frazier, who was fired on December 30th, and becomes the third head coach hired since current owners Zygi and Mark Wilf bought the team in 2005.
Zimmer, 57, played quarterback and linebacker at Illinois State. He then coached on the defensive side at the collegiate level for 15 years at Missouri, Weber State and Washington State before joining the Dallas Cowboys as secondary coach.
He won a Super Bowl ring when the Cowboys beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. One of Zimmer’s players, unheralded cornerback Larry Brown, became the game’s MVP.
Zimmer was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000 and held that post through 2006. He coached under Parcells in Dallas from 2003 to 2006.
The Cowboys ranked in the top five in scoring defense six times during Zimmer’s tenure as secondary coach and defensive coordinator. He also led the Cowboys to top 10 finishes in yards allowed with both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. In 2003, the Cowboys ranked No. 1 (253.5 yards allowed per game).
Zimmer moved on to Atlanta as defensive coordinator in 2007 before joining the Bengals in 2008.
Before Zimmer arrived, the Bengals had one top-10 defensive ranking in the previous 18 seasons. They’ve achieved that feat in four of the last five years under Zimmer, including a No. 3 ranking (305.5) this season.
The Bengals also ranked fifth in points allowed (19.1) this season. That included a 42-14 domination of the Vikings in Week 16. Zimmer’s defense set the tone that day in Cincinnati. On the third play of the game, the Bengals sacked Matt Cassel, stripping him of the ball and returning the fumble to the Vikings’ 4-yard line to set up the game’s first touchdown. Zimmer’s defense also held the Vikings to 10 first downs and scored on a pick-six.
The Vikings ranked last in points allowed (30.0) and 31st in total defense (397.6 yards per game) and pass defense (287.2).
Zimmer was praised by Parcells recently in a Star Tribune article.
“He’s very competitive, he’s intense,” Parcells said. “I think he’s a smart guy. … Every place that I’ve ever heard that he’s been, the players really liked him. And yet he doesn’t coddle the players at all. He’s got a good balance with that tough love.
“I think now he’s got enough experience to handle the players and the big picture and the scouting and the constraints and the things that the league mandates now. He’s got enough experience to where he’d do a good job.”
Zimmer’s son, Adam, is a Bengals assistant coach. He also has two daughters Corri and Marki. Zimmer’s wife, Vicki, passed away suddenly of natural causes at age 50 in 2009. That same year, he was named NFL assistant coach of the year by cbssports.com and the Pro Football Writers Association.