The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly settled on their new defensive coordinator, and that person is Mike Zimmer. It’s not hard to imagine what long-time NFL coach Mike Zimmer would look like as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. A quick Google search should pull up some pictures of coach Zimmer wearing Cowboys Reebok gear on the sidelines beside Bill Parcells.
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. pic.twitter.com/jFq8KdIyNJ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 9, 2024
After Dan Quinn decided to take a head coaching position with the Washington Commanders with presumed in-house front-runner Joe Whitt Jr. right behind him, the search for the next defensive coordinator in Dallas had begun.
The Cowboys met with former Commanders’ head coach Ron Rivera, current defensive line coach Aden Durde, and Zimmer, who were the top three candidates for the position. Ultimately, Dallas opted to go with a veteran coach with ties to the organization.
Coach Zimmer’s NFL career started in 1994 when the Cowboys hired him as an assistant coach. The following season, he would be in charge of coaching the defensive backs through 1999. Zimmer developed players in the secondary, similar to how Al Harris has helped grow the talent of Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, and others.
In 2000, Zimmer was elevated to defensive coordinator and would retain that title until after the 2006 season. From there, he had stints with the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals that helped him land a head coaching opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings.
Where Mike Zimmer defenses ranked by DVOA (2010-2021), courtesy of @FTNFantasy:
– 2010 (Bengals DC): 23
– 2011 (Bengals DC): 16
– 2012 (Bengals DC): 9
– 2013 (Bengals DC): 4
– 2014 (Vikings HC): 27
– 2015 (Vikings HC): 10
– 2016 (Vikings HC): 5
– 2017 (Vikings HC): 1
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) February 3, 2024
The Cowboys were “intent” on finding a new coordinator with head coaching experience, and they checked that box with Zimmer while also getting one of the most respected defensive minds around the game of football.
While he was with the Vikings, Zimmer spearheaded some of the better defenses of the past ten years. In 2016-2019, Zimmer’s unit ranked in the top five in defensive DVOA. Quinn had a similar run with the Cowboys after taking over coordinator duties in 2021.
The Vikings had a plethora of talent for Zimmer to use in Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Anthony Barr, to name a few. Zimmer is walking into a similar situation with top defensive talent in Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, Osa Odighizuwa, Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker and more.
Mike McCarthy isn’t afraid to bring in a former head coach to help lead his team if it’s the tide to raise all boats. The Cowboys brought in Quinn for this reason, even though he and McCarthy did not have a prior working relationship.
McCarthy and Zimmer know each other very well, returning to their days of facing each other twice a year in the NFC North. Zimmer spoke fondly of McCarthy when he was let go from the Green Bay Packers.
Players who have worked with Zimmer respect him and love to play for him, even though his demeanor can be rough at times. Most players would call that tough love. The Cowboys could use a more disciplined approach as a team after being among the top-five leaders in penalties three years in a row.
The Cowboys’ work this offseason is far from over. They’ll need to surround Zimmer with a few more pieces on defense to allow him to craft the scheme he’s looking for, but he has a significant head start, given the talent already on the roster.
If they add a few more veteran players in free agency, maybe some familiar with Zimmer, and some young talent in the draft, Dallas will be on its way to completing its mission of an “all-in” approach for 2024.