The Minnesota Vikings are hiring defensive guru Mike Zimmer to fill their head-coaching vacancy. ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news, and the Vikings Twitter account confirmed it later in the day:
It's official- Vikings name Mike Zimmer the 9th head coach in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/MJtCCfHeXD— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 16, 2014
Zimmer has no NFL head coaching experience but spent the past six seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator and has been an NFL assistant since 1994.
As Sports Illustrated's Peter King points out, Zimmer is certainly deserving of a promotion:
Mike Zimmer Should Be A Head Coach Stat of Week: Cin in playoffs 4 of last 5 yrs w/Zimmer as DC. Offense ranked 20 or lower 3 of those yrs.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 8, 2014
The Bengals made the playoffs in four of the six seasons with Zimmer leading the defense. On top of that, Cincinnati never ranked worse than 15th in total defense over that time, ranking third in yards allowed (305.5) and fifth in points allowed per game (19.1) during the 2013 regular season.
On Jan. 16, the Bengals announced Zimmer's replacement:
We officially announce the promotion of Paul Guenther to defensive coordinator, replacing Mike Zimmer, who was named head coach of Vikings.— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 16, 2014
In Zimmer, the Vikings are getting one of the game's top defensive minds and a well-respected players' coach.
In addition to his intense preparation and successful schemes, Zimmer was beloved by his Cincinnati players, whom he seemed to get the most out of each and every season. Per USA Today's Tom Pelissero, linebacker Rey Maualuga recently remarked, "We've been waiting for 'Zim' to leave. He's done a great job. Our defense has been ranked in the top 10 for (three straight years). He deserves it."
Although he's heading into uncharted territory as a first-time head coach in the NFL, Zimmer clearly has the work ethic, knowledge and experience to make a major impact in his new role.
The Vikings reached the playoffs in 2012 after hitching their wagon to running back Adrian Peterson. Minnesota experienced a major drop-off in 2013 with a record of 5-10-1; however, there is talent in place for a potential turnaround.
Minnesota's quarterback triumvirate of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman fell flat this past season, so finding a signal-caller with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft is something that must be considered.
Due to Zimmer's defensive background and acumen, though, expect him to focus on improving that aspect of the Vikes' game. Minnesota ranked No. 31 in total defense and allowed the most points in the league with 480.
Personnel will be key to Zimmer changing the defensive culture, but his mere presence and scheme should help immediately. Additionally, if Minnesota can make a splash in free agency this coming March, he will be well on his way to turning things around.
Prior to joining the Bengals in 2008, the 57-year-old spent several seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. Zimmer has been an NFL defensive coordinator since 2000 after coaching defense for nearly two decades in the college ranks.
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