What Mike Zimmer Hire Means for Minnesota Vikings

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IJanuary 15, 2014

AP Images

One season removed from thunderous running back Adrian Peterson carrying the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs, the Leslie Frazier era went stale.

The Vikings needed a breath of fresh, fiery air, and they got that by hiring Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to be their next head coach.

Minnesota's front office interviewed a handful of candidates before zeroing in and ultimately snagging the outspoken Zimmer, who's been a hot head-coaching name over the past few offseasons. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter initially broke the news on the morning of Wednesday, January 15, citing sources:

Vikings are hiring Mike Zimmer as their HC, per league source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 15, 2014

A few minutes later, FOX Sports' NFL insider Jay Glazer sent out a more definitive tweet: 

The Vikings have hired Mike Zimmer as their new head coach.

— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 15, 2014

Zimmer also interviewed with the Tennessee Titans and the Washington Redskins prior to taking the Vikings job.

He began his NFL coaching career in 1994 as the defensive backs coach for the Dallas Cowboys, a job he held through the 1999 season before being promoted to the team's defensive coordinator. 

Zimmer spent the 2007 season as the Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator, but really made his name in pro football in the same job for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008 until now. 

Here's a look at how Cincinnati's defense fared with Zimmer running the show: 

Nov 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (95) runs onto the field during introductions before the game with the Washington Redskins at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-27. Mandatory C
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

That 2010 season was forgettable, but once Zimmer was able to fully install his system with the proper personnel fits, the Bengals defense emerged as one of the most sound units in the league.

While Cincinnati drafted relatively well during Zimmer's tenure, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict were the only Pro Bowlers or All-Pros he coached. 

The former was a First-Team All-Pro in 2012, and the latter made the Pro Bowl this season. 

That's a testament to Zimmer's ability to tap into the full potential of defensive players. 

It's also worth noting that he got positive results from Adam "Pacman" Jones and Terrance Newman, and that Burfict was an undrafted free agent.

Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga wished his former defensive coordinator the best on Twitter:

Gonna miss you coach Zimmer! Wish you nothing but the best in Minnesota. You brought out the best (cont) http://t.co/6ytnHtHJ5C

— Rey Maualuga (@maualuga58) January 15, 2014

When Zimmer took over the Bengals defense, it needed to be revamped. At the end of the 2007 season, it finished 28th in yards and touchdowns allowed per drive and 26th in points allowed per drive. 

He has a similar restructuring project in front of him with the Vikings, but the youthful talent is there. 

Here's how Minnesota's defense performed this year:

Cincinnati Bengals Defense Under Mike Zimmer (Rank)
Yards Allowed Per DriveTDs Allowed Per DrivePoints Allowed Per DriveSacks
200828.75 (13).213 (22)1.87 (18)17 (30)
200925.73 (4).164 (7)1.52 (9)34 (16)
201030.15 (21).203 (20)1.90 (23)27 (27)
201125.48 (4)179 (13)1.59 (9)45 (5)
201227.53 (6).156 (4)1.53 (6)51 (3)
201326.32 (4).144 (3)1.41 (3)43 (10)
Football Outsiders and ESPN

After some shrewd transactions on the day of the 2013 draft by general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings made three selections in the first round and grabbed wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. 

Floyd was given a respectable minus-1.3 grade by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and Rhodes received a plus-1.5 grade.

Those two will need to be key cogs on Zimmer's defense in the future.

Minnesota Vikings 2013 Defense (Rank)
Yards Allowed Per DriveTDs Allowed Per DrivePoints Allowed Per DriveSacks
33.53 (27).268 (29)2.31 (29)41 (13)
Football Outsiders and ESPN

Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Chris Cook and Everson Griffen are important defensive contributors for Minnesota who'll hit the free-agent market in a few months if they aren't re-signed. 

With Zimmer, the Vikings have a noticeably spirited head coach with an impressive resume as a defensive specialist. 

He'll run the 4-3 system that aligns nicely with the Vikings front seven personnel, and history shows he'll get the most out of his defensive players. In Minnesota, it'll be names like Brian Robinson—an up-and-coming star—Jamarca Sanford, Harrison Smith, Erin Henderson, Griffen—if re-signed—Floyd and Rhodes. 

With an insightful offensive coordinator, someone who can aid Spielman in identifying the desperately needed franchise quarterback, the Vikings should be in good hands with the animated Mike Zimmer as the head coach.