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 this offseason. 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