Mike Zimmer (Coach)

LB Eric Kendricks Addresses Cowboys Deal

Eric Kendricks had a deal in place to sign with the 49ers this offseason, but he ended up backing out of that agreement to join the Cowboys. The veteran linebacker reunited with Mike Zimmer in the process, and that was a factor in his decision to sign with Dallas.

“Yeah absolutely, I always appreciated Zim,” Kendricks said (via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News). “Just the amount of defense I learned when I was underneath him. The way I watch film, the way we break things down, the install, a lot of things I learned from Zim and we had some good years and I can’t wait to continue that.”

Zimmer’s head coaching tenure of the Vikings came to an end when he was fired following the 2021 season. His dismissal (along with that of general manager Rick Spielman) came amidst reports of a rift between that pairing and the players. Kendricks himself publicly lamented the “culture of fear” which was in place under Zimmer. The latter was out of coaching for two seasons before taking the Cowboys’ DC gig.

Zimmer will be charged with replicating the success Dallas saw with Dan Quinn at the helm on defense; the unit ranked no worse than seventh in points allowed over the past three years. Linebacker is a spot filled with question marks going into 2024, though, and Kendricks figures to serve in a starting role. The 32-year-old took less money to join the Cowboys, eschewing what would have been a short-term gig as a first-teamer in San Francisco.

Kendricks had an eight-year run in Minnesota, starting 127 games along the way. He earned first-team All-Pro honors along with a Pro Bowl nod in 2019, and he has recorded at least 107 tackles every season since. The UCLA alum will see plenty of playing time in a linebacker unit which no longer includes the retired Leighton Vander Esch. Dallas will depend on Kendricks as an experienced producer alongside the likes of Damone Clark, DeMarvion Overshown and Marist Liufau. Any potential tension with Zimmer has been dealt with by now.

“I respect him fully,” Kendricks added. “We’re going to get this thing going. I had a talk with him this past weekend. We’re excited to have this opportunity to work together again and play off each other.”

Cowboys Targeted Former Head Coach For DC Role; Mike Zimmer Received Other Offers

In place on the Cowboys’ coaching staff for 13 years, Mike Zimmer was a valued assistant in Dallas over a few HC regimes. The former Vikings leader will join a staff that resides on unstable ground, but familiarity drew the veteran back to Texas.

Zimmer is joining a coaching staff that centers around one of his longtime NFC North rivals. He and Mike McCarthy coached against each other for five seasons while tied to the Vikings and Packers. McCarthy will call on Zimmer to help save his job. Although the Cowboys were believed to want to promote Joe Whitt and interviewed D-line coach Aden Durde, it appears their qualifications did not meet McCarthy’s target. Expected to go into the 2024 season a lame duck, McCarthy said he prioritized a defensive coordinator with HC experience.

[RELATED: Giants Block Cowboys From Andre Patterson Interview]

I think the importance of the leadership role on defense, outside of scheme, calling games and coaching players, there is so much more that goes on as far as an assistant coaches,” McCarthy said, via ESPN.com’s Todd Archer. “I think it’s important. Mike’s had experience and success he’s had at every level is what makes this a great fit.

The Cowboys’ interview list matches up with this preference. The team met with Ron Rivera and Rex Ryan, with the latter drawing some 11th-hour buzz during the process. Zimmer’s deal took a few days to finalize, but he had emerged as the frontrunner. The eight-year Minnesota coach becomes the second former HC McCarthy has hired to run his defense in Dallas, following Dan Quinn. McCarthy went in this direction with two of his DC hires in Green Bay as well, bringing in Dom Capers (2009) and Mike Pettine (2018).

Zimmer, 67, was only connected to the Cowboys this offseason and only mentioned as interviewing with the Broncos in 2023. The longtime NFL staffer, however, said (via Archer) he had options to return to the league since the Vikings fired him in January 2022. Zimmer chose the Cowboys due to trust. Considering how long his first Dallas tenure lasted, it is unsurprising he holds the organization in high regard.

Debuting as an NFL assistant on Barry Switzer‘s first staff back in 1994, Zimmer stayed on through the Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells regimes. Parcells went as far to leave Zimmer — promoted to defensive coordinator under Campo — in place as his DC throughout his four-year tenure, which ended in 2006. Zimmer left to become Bobby Petrino‘s defensive coordinator in 2007, landing his launching-pad role as Bengals DC following Petrino’s quick Atlanta exit. After the Vikings stay, Zimmer helped ex-Cowboys charge Deion Sanders out at both Jackson State and Colorado. This will be Zimmer’s fourth NFL DC gig.

Unlike Quinn, Zimmer probably will not be a candidate to become a head coach again. As Steve Spagnuolo has shown in Kansas City and as Wade Phillips demonstrated in Denver and Los Angeles, value can come from hiring an accomplished coordinator who is not a true HC candidate. McCarthy will bet on Zimmer to help keep Dallas’ defense among the NFL’s best. Although the bar will be higher for the fifth-year Cowboys HC, given what he has already accomplished in Dallas, Zimmer rolling out a strong defense would certainly help McCarthy’s cause.

Giants Block Cowboys’ Interview Request With Andre Patterson

The Giants have denied their defensive line coach an opportunity to interview with a division rival. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Giants denied the Cowboys’ request to interview defensive line coach Andre Patterson. The Cowboys were presumably looking to hire Patterson for the same role, and the Giants rejected the potential lateral move.

[RELATED: Cowboys To Hire Mike Zimmer As DC]

It’s not a huge surprise that new Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer tried to recruit Patterson to Dallas. The coaches worked alongside each other with the Vikings, where Patterson climbed his way up from defensive line coach to co-defensive coordinator. As ESPN’s Jordan Raanan points out, Zimmer and Patterson have a strong relationship, and the Cowboys wouldn’t have reached out unless the current Giants coach was at least entertaining the idea of a move.

On the flip side, there wouldn’t be much incentive for the Giants letting a respected coach walk to a division rival. Patterson has spent the past two seasons in New York, and despite an overhaul of the defensive coaching staff this offseason, the veteran coach was one of the few to stick around. In fact, the Giants made it clear to potential defensive coordinator candidates that they intended to keep Patterson on their next defensive staff (per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post). During his time in New York, the DL coach has been credited with guiding Dexter Lawrence to two All-Pro nods.

Patterson has been coaching since the ’80s, spending time in both the NFL and college football. He often held the title of defensive line coach, including a three-year stint with the Cowboys in the early 2000s. Zimmer coaxed him out of the NCAA back in 2014, and Patterson has spent nearly the past decade coaching in the NFL.

As Art Stapleton of USA Today points out, the move could also be a bit of payback from the Giants organization. When Zimmer was in Minnesota, he denied the Giants’ request to interview Kevin Stefanski for an offensive coordinator job despite already having an offensive coordinator of his own (John DeFilippo).

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.

Cowboys Remain In Contact With Rex Ryan Over DC Position

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.

[RELATED: Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

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.

2024 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

After a crowded carousel previously stopped, the 49ers opened their defensive coordinator position. Here is how the NFC champions’ search looks:

Updated 3-2-24 (10:00am CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dave Ragone)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Ken Dorsey)

  • Joe Brady, interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (Bills): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed

Carolina Panthers (Out: Thomas Brown)

  • Marcus Brady, senior offensive assistant (Eagles): Interview requested
  • Brad Idzik, wide receivers coach (Buccaneers): Hired

Chicago Bears (Out: Luke Getsy)

Cincinnati Bengals (Out: Brian Callahan)

  • Andy Dickerson, offensive line coach (Seahawks): To interview
  • Dan Pitcher, quarterbacks coach (Bengals): Promoted

Cleveland Browns (Out: Alex Van Pelt)

Las Vegas Raiders (Out: Mick Lombardi)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Kellen Moore)

New England Patriots (Out: Bill O’Brien)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Pete Carmichael)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Brian Johnson)

  • Jerrod Johnson, quarterbacks coach (Texans): Interviewed
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Interviewed 1/23
  • Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator (Chargers): Hired

Pittsburgh Steelers (Out: Matt Canada)

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Shane Waldron)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Dave Canales)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Tim Kelly)

  • Nick Holz, passing game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed
  • Eric Studesville, associate head coach/running backs coach (Dolphins): Interview requested

Washington Commanders (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Chip Kelly, former head coach (Eagles/49ers): On team’s radar
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Hired

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Ryan Nielsen)

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Mike Macdonald)

  • Zach Orr, inside linebackers coach (Ravens): Promoted

Buffalo Bills

  • Bobby Babich, linebackers coach (Bills): Promoted
  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Sean Desai, former defensive coordinator (Eagles): To interview

Chicago Bears (Out: Alan Williams)

  • Joe Barry, former defensive coordinator (Packers): To interview 1/27
  • Chris Harris, secondary coach (Titans): To interview
  • Eric Washington, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Bills): Hired
  • Terrell Williams, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Titans): To interview

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Dan Quinn)

Green Bay Packers (Out: Joe Barry)

Jacksonville Jaguars (Out: Mike Caldwell)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Derrick Ansley)

  • Jesse Minter, defensive coordinator (Michigan): Hired

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Raheem Morris)

Miami Dolphins (Out: Vic Fangio)

New England Patriots

  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Promoted
  • Michael Hodges, linebackers coach (Saints): To interview
  • Tem Lukabu, outside linebackers coach (Panthers): To interview
  • Christian Parker, defensive backs coach (Broncos): Interviewed

New York Giants (Out: Don Martindale)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Sean Desai)

  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Vic Fangio, former defensive coordinator (Dolphins): Hired
  • Ron Rivera, former head coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/22

San Francisco 49ers (Out: Steve Wilks)

  • Gerald Alexander, safeties coach (Raiders): Interviewed 3/1
  • Daniel Bullocks, defensive backs coach (49ers): Interviewed 2/28
  • David Merritt, defensive backs coach (Chiefs): To interview
  • Nick Sorensen, defensive passing game specialist (49ers): Promoted
  • Brandon Staley, former head coach (Chargers): Interviewed

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Clint Hurtt)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Shane Bowen)

  • Brandon Lynch, cornerbacks coach (Browns): Interviewed 1/30
  • Dennard Wilson, defensive backs coach (Ravens): Hired

Washington Commanders (Out: Jack Del Rio)

  • Joe Cullen, defensive line coach (Chiefs): Considered a candidate
  • Joe Whitt, defensive backs coach (Cowboys): Hired

Mike Zimmer To Interview For Cowboys’ DC Position

After being mentioned as a potential name to watch for the Cowboys defensive coordinator position, former Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is now set to meet with the team in regard to the position, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Having not coached in the NFL over the past two seasons, Zimmer could return to a coordinator position for the first time in 11 years and could reunite with the Cowboys for the first time in 18 years.

Zimmer, 67, has a storied history as one of the NFL’s better defensive minds. Starting in the college ranks, worked his way into his first coordinator job with Washington State after stints at Missouri and Weber State. After five years with the Cougars, Zimmer made the jump to the NFL, joining the Cowboys as a defensive assistant focusing on coaching nickel cornerbacks.

It took only a year for Zimmer to get promoted to defensive backs coach in Dallas, and after another five years, Zimmer became an NFL coordinator for the first time in his career, taking over play-calling duties for the Cowboys defense. After holding the position in Dallas for seven years, Zimmer decided to join Bobby Petrino in the same position during Petrino’s only NFL head coaching stint in Atlanta. Petrino famously left the Falcons after only 13 games to become the head coach at the University of Arkansas, drawing much ire from Zimmer who would be left without a job as he refused to follow to the college coaching ranks.

As a result, Zimmer took his next coordinator job with the Bengals. With five years of coaching consistently good defensive in Cincinnati under his belt, the league began to try out Zimmer’s name for head coaching interviews. After seven years with the Bengals, Zimmer would finally get his first head coaching opportunity with the Vikings.

Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota would widely be deemed as successful, but a failure to stay consistently in contention and a to reach the Super Bowl ultimately led to his departure. Over his eight years as head coach, the Vikings went 72-56-1, never winning fewer than seven games. The Vikings twice won the NFC North under Zimmer and even reached the NFC Championship game in 2017. In 2021, Zimmer missed the playoffs for the second straight year after seeing the postseason in three of his first six seasons. Despite his ability to keep his team competitive, Zimmer was let go.

Since then, Zimmer has been away from the NFL, spending the 2022 season as an analyst/consultant under Deion Sanders at Jackson State. A return to the NFL has long been expected and would return one of the league’s better coordinators to the professional ranks.

Zimmer would have the luxury of taking over a top-five defense from the Commanders new head coach, Dan Quinn. Reuniting Zimmer with a Cowboys defense that now contains such stars as Micah Parsons and DaRon Bland seems like a no-brainer. His main competition seems to be Cowboys defensive backs coach Joe Whitt and perhaps former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera. Cowboys cornerbacks coach Al Harris and defensive line coach Aden Durde have been considered as possibilities for a promotion, as well.

A date has not yet been set for Zimmer’s meeting with the Cowboys, but an interview seems imminent. Seeing Zimmer return not only to the NFL but to the Cowboys, as well, could be just what Dallas needs to take that next step in the NFL.

Latest On Joe Whitt; Cowboys Eyeing Ron Rivera?

We heard earlier today that Cowboys secondary coach Joe Whitt has emerged as the lead candidate to take over as his team’s defensive coordinator. At the same time, it sounded like the coach he’d be replacing in Dallas, Dan Quinn, still loomed as a suitor in Washington. We haven’t gotten any more clarity since then, but the sweepstakes continue to get more interesting.

[RELATED: Cowboys Aiming To Hire Joe Whitt As DC]

Earlier this evening, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 reported that Quinn and the Commanders were expected to hire Whitt as their defensive coordinator. However, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes Whitt-to-Washington isn’t a done deal, and the Cowboys continue to be in play. Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News adds that the Commanders are simply working on scheduling an interview with Whitt.

The long-time coach would be a logical candidate for both roles. Whitt had a long stint working alongside Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, and the two teamed up again in Dallas. Whitt also worked alongside Quinn in both Dallas and Atlanta, so it’s natural that both head coaches are pursuing a familiar face for their respective coordinator vacancies.

Whitt has been with the Cowboys since 2021, serving as the team’s secondary coach and pass game coordinator. Under his tutelage, both Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland have earned first-team All-Pro nods, and he’s also helped guide a formidable safeties corps that features the likes of Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker. The 45-year-old has served as the defensive pass game coordinator in Dallas, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Green Bay, so it’d be a natural progression for him to earn a promotion to defensive coordinator.

While the Cowboys continue to be in the running, it sounds like the team is expanding their list of coordinator candidates. According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, Ron Rivera is slated to interview for the Cowboys DC job next week, perhaps a hint that Dallas isn’t confident about their ability to retain Whitt.

Rivera was fired by the Commanders last month, but he’s since become a popular coordinator candidate. He earned interviews with both the Rams and Eagles, but both organizations decided to go in different directions. He sounds like he could now be a fallback option for the Cowboys, who are now in the market for a defensive coordinator with Quinn having been named Washington’s new head coach.

Watkins passes along another potential name to watch for the Cowboys DC job: Mike Zimmer. The former Vikings head coach is interested in the job, a source told Watkins, although it’s uncertain if that interest has been reciprocated.

Zimmer spent more than a decade in Dallas, ultimately serving as the team’s defensive coordinator. He had the same job with the Falcons and Bengals before being named the Vikings head coach in 2014. He lasted eight seasons in Minnesota, earning three playoff appearances. After he was fired following the 2021 campaign, he spent a season as a consultant at Jackson State.

Broncos To Hire Vance Joseph As DC

Vance Joseph is coming back to Denver. The former Broncos head coach will make a quick return, agreeing to join Sean Payton‘s staff as defensive coordinator, Peter Schrager of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

This hire will come barely four years after the Broncos fired Joseph following a two-year HC run. While unusual, a coach coming back so soon is not unprecedented. Joseph beat out the likes of Rex Ryan, Matt Patricia and Sean Desai for the job. Joseph will again play the lead role in helming Denver’s defense, doing so under Payton this time around.

Joseph, 50, received extensive interest from the Eagles as well. He went through a two-day interview with Philly brass; that wrapped Wednesday. Despite a rocky history with the Broncos, Joseph kept the door open for a return. The University of Colorado alum has not worked with Payton previously, but these two will be the top coaches in the Broncos’ organization going forward. Payton will call plays offensively, and Joseph will now step into Denver’s defensive play-calling role.

The Broncos went 9-7 under Gary Kubiak in 2016; their decline began to hit under Joseph over the next two seasons. Denver went 5-11 and 6-10 in 2017 and ’18, respectively, though quarterback trouble did more to sink those teams than defensive issues. While the Broncos’ defense did dip from its Wade Phillips-overseen apex, Joseph immediately landed the Cardinals’ DC job upon being axed. It is not known if the Eagles offered Joseph their DC position, but the Broncos’ new ownership — as evidenced by the Payton hire — certainly would be in position to win a bidding war for a coach. Joseph left his Eagles interview believing he had a good chance at either that job or the Denver opening, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets.

The Cardinals interviewed Joseph for their HC position early in their lengthy search process but ended up preferring two other DCs — finalists Jonathan Gannon and Lou Anarumo. Gannon and Joseph soon came to an understanding, one that led the Cardinals to replace him with the NFL’s youngest active coordinator — 29-year-old Nick Rallis. The Cardinals took on water from all sides last season, with their defense ranking 24th in DVOA despite J.J. Watt‘s bounce-back finale. But Joseph’s unit played a major role in Arizona’s 2021 playoff voyage; DVOA ranked the 2021 Cardinals’ defense sixth. The metric placed Arizona’s 2020 defense, which did not have Chandler Jones for most of the season, 10th overall.

Joseph is the second former Broncos HC to return to the team as a defensive boss over the past 10 years. Phillips, Denver’s head coach from 1993-94, came back in 2015 and helped steer the Kubiak-led team to a Super Bowl win. This reminds more of the Chiefs rehiring Gunther Cunningham four years after firing him as head coach. Cunningham coached the Chiefs from 1999-2000, being promoted from DC, but he returned to his previous coordinator role under both Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards. Unlike those circumstances, when the same GM was in place (Carl Peterson), the GM who fired Joseph — John Elway — is no longer in a regular role with the team. Payton and George Paton are running the show. New ownership is also in place, with the Rob Walton-led group taking over last year.

I’m over it. It was never a sore spot,” Joseph said (via Denver7’s Troy Renck) of being fired as Broncos HC in 2019. “That’s a great opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. It didn’t work out, but I wasn’t the first guy and I won’t be the last. There were never any ill feelings. It was just a job. It didn’t get done and you move on.”

Justin Simmons and Josey Jewell are the only Broncos cogs left from Joseph’s first run with the organization. The Broncos ranked 10th and fifth, respectively, in defensive DVOA under Joseph from 2017-18. His 11-21 HC record aside, Joseph has shown an ability to lead upper-echelon defenses. He will now bring four additional years of experience back to Denver. Joseph’s experience helped sell Payton, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Phillips also reached out to Joseph before his interview with Payton, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes.

Ryan obviously brings more experience than Joseph, but the ESPN analyst — reported as the favorite for this job days ago — has also been out of the league since the Bills fired him late in the 2016 season. Desai, who also interviewed for the Eagles’ DC job, has one season of coordinator experience. Joseph has been a head coach or D-coordinator for seven combined seasons. This will be his fourth opportunity to lead a defense.

Defensive backs coach Christian Parker also interviewed for the job, Legwold notes, adding Mike Zimmer interviewed for a separate position on staff. Kris Richard, whom Payton hired with the Saints in 2021, also interviewed for the gig. Parker would appear to be a candidate to stay, while Zimmer — previously mentioned as a candidate to team with Payton again — could be in play for a senior defensive assistant-type position. Joseph should still be expected to have input in how Denver’s defensive staff looks.

Mike Zimmer On Broncos’ Radar

Rex Ryan‘s first connection to an NFL job in years emerged Sunday; the Broncos interviewed the former Jets and Bills coach-turned-ESPNer. Sean Payton also looks to be considering bringing Mike Zimmer back to the league.

Zimmer has been connected to the Broncos in recent weeks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The former Vikings HC spent the 2022 season out of the NFL, helping out Deion Sanders at Jackson State. It is not known if the Broncos are considering Zimmer for their defensive coordinator job or if Payton is eyeing the veteran coach for a senior defensive assistant-type position, but Ryan’s DC interview could certainly point to Zimmer being considered. Zimmer, 66, has only worked as a DC or HC in the NFL since 2000.

The Vikings fired Zimmer after eight seasons in January 2022, and the accomplished defensive coach earned his HC opportunity after a quality run as the Bengals’ DC. But Zimmer and Payton worked together on Bill Parcells‘ staffs in Dallas during the mid-2000s. The Cowboys hired Payton as their quarterbacks coach upon Parcells’ arrival in 2003; Zimmer had been in place in Dallas dating back to Barry Switzer‘s tenure. Zimmer coached with the Cowboys for 13 seasons, departing in 2007 for the Cincinnati post. Payton landed the New Orleans HC gig a year earlier.

Sanders’ position coach throughout his Dallas tenure, Zimmer has made a number of notable connections during his run in the NFL. That said, Zimmer has managed to enjoy long tenures with teams. The Falcons, who hired him as their DC during Bobby Petrino‘s one-and-done 2007 slate, are the only team to have employed Zimmer for fewer than six seasons since he entered the NFL ranks in 1994. Zimmer would be an interesting option for Payton, who is both considering experienced defensive staffers and young hires. The Vikings ranked as a top-10 scoring defense each season from 2015-19; the Bengals did the same in four of Zimmer’s final five seasons in Ohio.

A Payton-Vic Fangio connection emerged before the Broncos made their trade with the Saints. Fangio is now Miami-bound, but the ex-Broncos HC recommended Denver to former protégé Sean Desai. The former Bears staffer-turned-Seahawks assistant interviewed for the Broncos position recently. With Ejiro Evero and Brian Flores off the table, Desai checks in with a considerable experience disadvantage compared to the other staffers connected to Denver. The 39-year-old coach is more than 20 years younger than Ryan or Zimmer.