The Minnesota Vikings announced the hiring of Mike Zimmer as their new head coach via Twitter on Wednesday.
The Vikings and Zimmer, who spent the past five seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals‘ defensive coordinator, had been in negotiations in an effort to complete a deal Wednesday, according to league sources.
Zimmer remained overnight after his second interview Tuesday was finished, with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf more centrally involved in the session, sources told ESPN.
Wilf made calls to selective references on Zimmer and came away satisfied to give a green light on hiring him to succeed Leslie Frazier as Minnesota’s coach.
Parameters of a contract were in place, and negotiations between the Vikings and Zimmer’s agent, Marvin Demoff, gained momentum toward completion, league sources told ESPN.
After surrendering the second-most yards and the most points in the NFL this season, the Vikings are turning to a head coach they believe can help fix those problems.
Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson said he was not surprised by Minnesota’s choice of Zimmer.
“I’ve been keeping my eyes open with the head coach,” Peterson told ESPN. “I knew (Zimmer) was probably the guy they were going to go with. It wasn’t too much of a surprise.”
Zimmer will have his work cut out for him. The Vikings had the worst opponent Total QBR (67.4) of any team during the Frazier era (2011-13), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Zimmer becomes the ninth coach in franchise history, 16 days after Frazier was fired on the heels of a 5-10-1 season. He goes to Minnesota after directing a Bengals defense that finished in the top 10 in yards and points allowed in four of the past five seasons.
Peterson, who acknowledged to ESPN that he was “disappointed” by Frazier’s firing, said he will closely monitor the Vikings’ direction as a franchise.
“Trust me, I’m watching,” he told ESPN. “I’m watching to see exactly what we’re doing, just to see exactly what direction we’re headed in. … With a new coach, that’s when things start happening, too. That’s all part of the process.”
Zimmer had been targeting Bengals linebackers coach Paul Guenther as his defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN. But the Bengals acted quickly Wednesday, promoting Guenther to defensive coordinator, according to sources.
Guenther met Wednesday with Bengals owner Mike Brown and agreed to a three-year deal to stay with Cincinnati, according to a source.
Zimmer, 57, is considering hiring Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator, a league source told ESPN. The Vikings have received permission to interview Turner, a source said. Zimmer also is considering Kyle Shanahan and Mike Mularkey as candidates, according to league sources.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his excitement over the Zimmer hiring.
Fired up about Coach Zimmer! As a Cincy kid he’s been fun to watch there and can’t wait to work with him! Welcome to the @Vikings!
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) January 15, 2014
Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga also tweeted his feelings on Zimmer’s hiring in Minnesota.
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
Zimmer broke into the NFL in 1994 and was an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys for six seasons before serving as defensive coordinator from 2000 to 2006. He was the Atlanta Falcons‘ defensive coordinator in 2007, and he became the Bengals’ defensive coordinator in 2008.
He had interviewed for five head-coaching jobs over the years, and was offered Nebraska‘s head-coaching job after he led the Cowboys’ defense to the No. 1 ranking in the league in 2003.
But things had not lined up right for Zimmer until after the 2013 season, when he got second interviews with both the Vikings and the Tennessee Titans.
ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan contributed to this report.
- ESPN Senior NFL Analyst
- Joined ESPN in 1991
- Has covered every Super Bowl since 1979
- ESPN NFL Insider
- Joined ESPN in 2009
- Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books