Mike Zimmer Faces New Competition in Dallas

Mike Zimmer Might
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Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, possibly in line to earn a defensive coordinator post in 2024.

Mike Zimmer Faces New Competition in Dallas

Zimmer is considered a frontrunner among a handful of Cowboys DC candidates and could end up as Dallas’ next hire.

Mike Zimmer Faces
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But on Wednesday, a plot twist unfolded: the Cowboys chatted with a blast-from-the-past option in Rex Ryan. Josina Anderson tweeted, “New: I’m told former Jets and Bills head coach Rex Ryan interviewed for the Cowboys vacant defensive coordinator job, per sources.”

The Ryan addition appeared to come out of nowhere, and it is unclear if he’ll overtake Zimmer as the sentimental frontrunner. Zimmer spent 13 seasons with the Cowboys in various coaching capacities from 1994 to 2006, and Ryan has never worked for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

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This is Ryan’s NFL coaching resume in the last 25 years:

Baltimore Ravens (1999–2004)
Defensive line coach

Baltimore Ravens (2005–2007)
Defensive coordinator

Baltimore Ravens (2008)
Assistant head coach & defensive coordinator

New York Jets (2009–2014)
Head coach

Buffalo Bills (2015–2016)
Head coach

Ryan last made headlines a few weeks ago when he predicted Bill Belichick could end up with the Buffalo Bills. He told ESPN coworkers in January, “Well, I’m saying if ownership sits back and goes, ‘You know what, this guy has done a great job as a coach, but is he the right guy to get us to the next level?’ I’m just throwing it out there. Believe me, I’m not just being reckless when I’m saying this. If you’re going to move on from him, it’s for one guy, and that’s for Bill Belichick.”

The Cowboys have also interviewed Aden Durde and Ron Rivera, in addition to Zimmer, for the defensive coordinator gig.

Packers Firing
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Dallas has considered itself a Super Bowl contender for the last few years, so the stakes will be elevated when a new defensive coordinator is hired. Dallas is firmly in win-now mode. In 2023, Dallas’ defense ranked fourth leaguewide per EPA/Play, meaning Dan Quinn’s act will be tough to follow. But the personnel is there: players like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs are dream incumbent starters for a new coordinator to inherit.

Ryan also notably implements a 3-4 defense, the same scheme used by Quinn, who became the Washington Commanders head coach last week. Zimmer famously boasts and utilizes the more traditional 4-3 system. In that regard, Ryan could leapfrog the list of favorites to earn the job.

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Ryan turned 61 in December and currently works for ESPN as an analyst.

The Cowboys haven’t advanced beyond the Divisional Round of the postseason in 28 years.

The Jets reached the AFC Championship twice on Ryan’s watch as the head coach.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.