Mike Zimmer Is Back!

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He was gone for a while, but not terribly long. Two years, in fact.

Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will return to the NFL, reportedly on deck to join the Dallas Cowboys as defensive coordinator.

Mike Zimmer Is Back!

Zimmer spent 13 seasons with the Cowboys from 1994 to 2006. In Dallas, this is considered a reunion. Jerry Jones re-obtained his man.

Day for Mike
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NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted Thursday night, 25 days after the Cowboys’ season ended thanks to the Green Bay Packers, “The Cowboys are expected to hire Mike Zimmer as their defensive coordinator, per sources. Zimmer, 67, is the third-winningest head coach in Vikings history and long respected for his defensive prowess. A big hire for Dallas, where Zimmer previously coached from 1994-2006.”

The fit will be marvelous for both parties: Zimmer can author his career’s final chapter in a familiar place, while Dallas’ self-described Super Bowl window can remain open. The Cowboys haven’t advanced beyond the Divisional Round of the postseason since 1996, but maybe next year will be different.

Cowboys Get Boost before Showdown with Vikings
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Owner Jerry Jones and head coach Mike McCarthy also interviewed Rex Ryan, Ron Rivera, Aden Durden, and Marquand Manuel, so Zimmer faced stiff competition. Dallas has considered itself a Super Bowl contender for the last few years, so the stakes will be elevated when Zimmer begins the construction of his 4-3 defense, assuming he carries that scheme over from the Vikings (2014-2021) and Bengals (2008-2013). Dallas played a 3-4 under Dan Quinn, who joined the Washington Commanders as head coach last week.

In 2023, Dallas’ defense ranked fourth leaguewide per EPA/Play, meaning 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.

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Zimmer produced the NFL’s 10th-best record on his watch as the Vikings coach in eight seasons. But the 2020 and 2021 seasons were beset by mediocrity, and after 2021, Minnesota’s ownership cleaned house by firing general manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer. The franchise settled on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager and Kevin O’Connell as skipper and has the league’s ninth-best record since Zimmer’s departure (20-14, .588).

From 2014 to 2021, under Zimmer, Minnesota’s defense ranked fourth per EPA/Play, which Cowboys fans hope will carry over to Dallas.

Mike Zimmer Is
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The Vikings won’t face Zimmer’s Dallas defense in the 2024 regular season but would see him in Dallas during 2025 if he lasts more than a year.

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.