Report: Vikings tab Zimmer: Cincinnati D-coordinator to replace Frazier
Mike Zimmer became a bit of a media star last summer of the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” Now, he’ll hold down a starring role with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings on Wednesday offered the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator their head coaching job and he accepted. He becomes the ninth coach in the team’s history, replacing Leslie Frazier, who was fired Dec. 30.
Zimmer has spent the past six seasons with the Bengals. That included gaining a bit of a cult following on “Hard Knocks” for his intensity and salty language. But he also might have been auditioning for possible future bosses in showing off his coaching abilities.
“My hope was ‘Hard Knocks’ would give him a little more exposure and that it would make people think of him as a head coach,” said Brian Billick, a former Vikings assistant and Super Bowl-winning coach with Baltimore who is now a Fox and NFL Network analyst. “It’s long overdue that he got a head coaching job. … He’s done a great job (in Cincinnati) and will do a great job in Minnesota.”
Zimmer, 57, had been an NFL assistant the past 20 years and was a college assistant 15 years before that. He had five interviews for NFL head coaching positions before finally hooking on with the Vikings.
Some have said Zimmer’s no-nonsense attitude turned off possible bosses in the past. But there’s been little bad anybody has been able to say lately about his defenses, with the Bengals finishing in the top seven in total defensive three straight years and four of the past five.
The Vikings, coming off a 5-10-1 season, did not make an official announcement Wednesday on Zimmer. But multiple sources confirmed Zimmer will take over, the ninth straight Minnesota boss brought in with no NFL head-coaching experience.
Zimmer was one of seven candidates known to have interviewed with Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman and was the only one who got a second interview.
A source told the Pioneer Press on Monday that if Zimmer wowed the Vikings in a visit Tuesday and Wednesday to Winter Park, the team might abandon its original plan to bring in two or three finalists. And that’s what happened.
With Zimmer’s defense playing a key role, the Bengals made the playoffs each of the past three years.
The Vikings have plenty of room for improvement. On defense, they were last in the NFL in 2013 in scoring and next to last in total defense.
ESPN reported that the Vikings have asked to speak with Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
He has 29 years of NFL coaching experience, including 16 as a head coach.
“I had Norv as (head) coach in 2004 (with Oakland),” said CBS analyst Rich Gannon, a former Vikings quarterback who concluded his NFL career that season with the Raiders. “He has been successful wherever he’s been. Mike is going to put together a great staff. People are going to want to join his staff. He’s a no-nonsense guy, but players love playing with him.”