Friday, Mike Zimmer, was introduced as the ninth head coach in Minnesota Vikings franchise history.
The former Bengals defensive coordinator will get his first crack as boss man after 35 years as an assistant on the collegiate and professional level. The journey began at Lockport Township High School where Zimmer got his start playing quarterback and linebacker, playing the same positions for the Illinois State Redbirds from 1974-1976 before injury ended his career. He began his coaching career as a defensive assistant for the University of Missouri, followed by stints at Weber State and Washington State.
Zimmer’s first NFL coaching job was with the Dallas Cowboys as defensive backs coach from 1994-1999, before being promoted to defensive coordinator from 2000-2006. In 2007, he made a brief stop in Atlanta to serve as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator, before landing in Cincinnati in 2008, serving as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator until his exit.
Zimmer had previously interviewed for five different head coaching jobs, being passed over each time. Leslie Frazier could not get the job done in three full seasons as head coach going 21-32, making the playoffs once in 2012. Lastly, the Vikings defense was in need of major improvement after ranking 31st, only higher than the Dallas Cowboys. The Bengals ranked 3rd.
And even though Leslie Frazier was unable to make it work, it is easy to see why. The only offensive weapon present is 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson, as the team was unable to find a franchise quarterback or something close to it. There was hope it would be Christian Ponder. Then an in-season trade for Josh Freeman from Tampa Bay only magnified that inability. The Vikings’ seemingly only noteworthy player on defense is DE Jared Allen, who is believed to take a walk via free agency.
This makes the new job a challenge. During the regular season, quarterback Andy Dalton performed well in Cincinnati, only to go 0-3 in the playoffs. On any given play, he could hand the ball off to Gio Bernard or BenJarvus Green-Ellis, or toss the ball to A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, or Tyler Eifert. The defense was highlighted by play from Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict, with help from Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, and former Steeler James Harrison.
The difference in talent, and conference, is glaring. Cincinnati won a physical AFC North division. The Vikings were fourth in a NFC North division that features three offenses that know how to score. Zimmer has to get that defense going. He has the experience to do it. The front office in Minnesota made the hire so they believe in him and they should. After all, he is a Redbird.
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