Mike Zimmer Returns to the NFL
The Minnesota Vikings have had many head coaches in the storied history. Bud Grant and Dennis Green lead the franchise in winning percentage. Third on the list is the current head coach Kevin O’Connell, closely followed by Mike Zimmer who guided the Vikings between 2014 and the 2021 season. He is now back in the NFL after a two-year absence.
Mike Zimmer Returns to the NFL
The NFL’s coaching carousel didn’t have an impact on the Vikings as Brian Flores inexplicably didn’t generate any interest and all other notable assistant coaches who interviewed for promotions around the league have stayed so far.
But some former Vikings were hired. Klint Kubiak will be the offensive coordinator in New Orleans and former head coach Leslie Frazier will be the assistant head coach in Seattle. Another job opened when the Commanders fired their head coach Ron Rivera and filled the position by hiring Cobwoys coordinator Dan Quinn.
Zimmer returns to his former team in his old role. He is once again the defensive coordinator in Dallas, according to Tom Pelissero who reported on X: “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.”
Zimmer was Minnesota’s skipper between 2014 and the end of the 2021 season. Following a pair of missed postseasons and some internal dysfunction, Minnesota decided to let him go to hire offensive-minded Kevin O’Connell.
He took two years off from NFL football but resurfaced in 2024. Coaching is his passion as he made clear in an interview with Tom Pelissero from NFL Network in December: “The biggest thing, Tom, is I love to teach. I love to coach. When I was a head coach, I was always trying to teach and get the players better. Also wanted to teach them about the game of football, not just about their position.”
Zimmer coached the Vikes for eight seasons and overall, his tenure was quite successful. Although failing to reach the ultimate goal, he formed a strong defensive unit that peaked in 2017, carrying a team to the NFC Championship game without its starting quarterback Sam Bradford and top weapon Dalvin Cook.
Throughout his term, Minnesota had the 10th-best record in the NFL. He also won two NFC North titles despite facing the prime version of Aaron Rodgers. Although regressing in the final two seasons, his Vikings defense ranked fourth in EPA/Play in those eight years.
The Cowboys are one of his former teams. Zimmer worked in Dallas as a defensive assistant in 1994, defensive backs coach (1995-1999) and defensive coordinator (2000-2006). His tenure as DB coach collided with Deion Sanders’ time with the Cowboys and the two became good friends while winning a Super Bowl in 1996. The Hall of Famer has always been one of his biggest fans.
Dallas has been featuring one of the strongest defenses in the league after overhauling the group in 2021. Micah Parsons is one of the best players in the league and they employ some excellent cornerbacks, something that is important for Zimmer’s defense to work.
The Cowboys’ defense has been a top-four unit in the league in three straight years according to EPA/play and they surely want to continue having a strong defense. Zimmer was one of the elite defensive minds in football for a long time. His defense faded because of a lack of talent rather than a bad scheme in his final two years in the NFC North. It will be fun to see him coordinate one of the most talented defenses in the league.
Zimmer will turn 68 in June. He will not face the Vikings in the regular season but a postseason meeting is possible.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt