Cowboys To Hire Mike Zimmer As DC

FEBRUARY 12: Despite it being learned over the past two days that Ryan was still in the running for the job, the Cowboys have indeed gone with Zimmer for their DC post. The parties reached agreement on Monday, Pelissero reports. Zimmer will thus make his return to where his NFL coaching career began, and take on his first pro position since 2021. Ryan, meanwhile, is poised to spend another year out of the coaching ranks.

FEBRUARY 11: Gehlken reports the Cowboys-Zimmer agreement has still not been finalized, something echoed by Ryan on ESPN’s NFL Countdown (video link). The latter said he contacted head coach Mike McCarthy about the Dallas DC vacancy, which set up his interview with the team. While a long-awaited return to the coaching ranks on Ryan’s part would come as a surprise given last week’s reporting, Zimmer’s hire does not appear to be a lock at this point.

FEBRUARY 8: The Cowboys looked at a number of candidates to replace Dan Quinn at defensive coordinator, and they’ve finally settled on their choice. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Cowboys are expected to hire Mike Zimmer as their defensive coordinator. Per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, there are some “logistics to [be] completed,” but Zimmer is the choice for the job.

Since he was fired as Vikings head coach following the 2021 campaign, Zimmer has been away from the NFL. He had a brief stint as a consultant at Jackson State in 2022, and it was assumed that the veteran coach would eventually look to return to the big leagues. Ultimately, he’ll land with the organization that gave him his first NFL gig back in 1994.

Zimmer started as a defensive assistant in Dallas, but it only took him a year before he earned a promotion to defensive backs coach. He earned a promotion to defensive coordinator when Dave Campo took over as head coach in 2000, and he stuck around the organization when the Cowboys pivoted to Bill Parcells in 2003. After more than a decade in Dallas, he had a one-year stint as the Falcons defensive coordinator before moving to the Bengals, where he’d serve as the DC for the next six years.

Thanks to his defensive track record, Zimmer was named the Vikings head coach in 2014. He ended up spending eight seasons in Minnesota, guiding the Vikings to three playoff appearances. This included a 2017 campaign where the Vikings went 13-3 in the regular season before falling to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

While the wheels never completely fell off in Minnesota, the Vikings went 15-18 between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He was fired following that 2021 campaign, ending his Vikings tenure with a 72-56-1 record.

The Cowboys job was certainly an enticing opportunity for Zimmer as he looked to return to the NFL. Dallas finished in the top seven in scoring defense during each of Quinn’s three seasons calling plays, and the unit had perhaps their most productive season in 2023. The Cowboys defense finished this past season having allowed the fifth-fewest yards and fifth-fewest points in the NFL.

While Quinn turned down previous head coaching opportunities, he left the Cowboys for the Commanders earlier this month. The Cowboys quickly looked to replace their departed coach. The team considered a number of inside candidates for promotions, including defensive line coach Aden Durde, cornerbacks coach Al Harris, and defensive backs coach Joe Whitt, who ended up joining Quinn as the DC in Washington. In addition to Zimmer, the outside candidates included Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel, former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera, and former Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

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