A report from last week tapped Mike Zimmer as the next defensive coordinator of the Cowboys. An agreement has not yet been finalized, however, and at least one other candidate is still in the running for the position.
Dallas has remained in contact with Rex Ryan, ESPN’s Adam Schefter explained on a Monday Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link). Schefter himself stated during ESPN’s Super Bowl countdown show on Sunday that the Zimmer hire had been made, but Ryan echoed reports which have noted that a contract is not yet in place. Now, the latter can still be considered a finalist for the role.
Ryan interviewed with Dallas as part of the team’s search for a Dan Quinn replacement. That marked the second straight offseason in which he met over a DC posting, having done so with the Broncos in 2023. The 61-year-old last held a coordinator position during his four-year run at the helm of the Ravens’ defense from 2005-08. That was followed by head coaching opportunities with the Jets and Bills, but he has not coached since being fired by Buffalo in 2016.
While working as an ESPN analyst, Ryan has not been tangibly connected to many NFL openings (either as a head coach or a DC). The fact the Cowboys – who Schefter notes “loved” Ryan after his interview – are still in touch is certainly notable. The team enjoyed success in a number of categories under Quinn during the past three years, but a poor defensive showing in Dallas’ wild-card loss to the Packers played a signficant role in another early postseason exit. Ryan, Zimmer or another candidate will be tasked with maintaining a consistent level of performance on that side of the ball throughout the campaign.
Zimmer has been out of the NFL coaching ranks since he was fired by the Vikings at the end of the 2021 campaign. His tenure as Minnesota’s head coach was preceded in part by a 13-year tenure with the Cowboys, including seven seasons as defensive coordinator. Zimmer would thus represent an experienced option for Mike McCarthy‘s staff and a familiar face for owner Jerry Jones, but he appears to still have competition for a return to where his NFL coaching career began.