Mike Zimmer

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Mike Zimmer
Color full-length photograph of Zimmer, gesturing with his hands, walking on a football field, wearing a grey pullover, grey shorts and purple baseball cap with the Minnesota Vikings logo.
Zimmer at practice in 2014.
Minnesota Vikings
Position:Head coach
Personal information
Born: (1956-06-05) June 5, 1956 (age 65)
Peoria, Illinois
Career information
High school:Lockport (IL) Township
College:Illinois State
Career history
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:64–47–1 (.576)
Postseason:2–3 (.400)
Career:66–50–1 (.568)
Coaching stats at PFR

Michael Zimmer (born June 5, 1956) is an American football coach who is the head coach for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, and Dallas Cowboys.

Playing career[edit]

In high school, Zimmer was a successful multi-sport athlete who earned all-conference honors in football (1972–73), baseball, and wrestling at Lockport Township High School in Lockport, Illinois. He enrolled at Illinois State University, majoring in physical education. He played quarterback in 1974, but he redshirted the following year and moved to linebacker in 1976 after breaking his thumb. A neck injury prematurely ended his playing career that same year. His college teammates were positively influenced by his constantly "up" attitude, especially during hot August pre-season double workouts. He backed up quarterback Bob Lopez in 1974, who later went on to set many of Illinois State's passing records.[1]

Coaching career[edit]


Zimmer's first coaching job was as a part-time defensive assistant at the University of Missouri from 1979–1980. He then coached at Weber State College from 1981–1988, serving as the inside linebackers coach from 1981–84, the defensive backs coach from 1985–88, and the defensive coordinator from 1983–88. From 1989–1993, Zimmer served as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for the Washington State Cougars. In 1993, the Cougars defense ranked eighth in the nation in total defense and second in rushing defense.

National Football League[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

He joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 as an assistant coach of the nickel defense under Barry Switzer. He was promoted to defensive backs coach in 1995 and served in that capacity before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000. The 2003 Dallas Cowboys defense gave up the fewest yards in the NFL while running an aggressive, speedy 4-3 defense. Despite the Cowboys' problems over the years, Zimmer survived several coaching changes (Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells) and was rumored to have been a candidate for the head coaching job at the University of Nebraska (circa 2003). In 2005, he implemented the 3-4 defense favored by head coach Bill Parcells, although Zimmer had no prior experience with it.

Atlanta Falcons[edit]

Zimmer with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in 2011.

When Bobby Petrino was hired to coach the Atlanta Falcons early in 2007, Mike Zimmer agreed to become the new defensive coordinator in Atlanta. Zimmer coached in Atlanta for only one season after Petrino left the Falcons for the University of Arkansas after thirteen games. Zimmer has been very outspoken against Petrino after Petrino's unexpected departure from Atlanta in 2007.[2]

Cincinnati Bengals[edit]

ZImmer with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014

Zimmer was named the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals on January 15, 2008. In 2009, Zimmer earned NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers and from CBSSports.com,[3] after guiding the Bengals to the 4th ranked defense in the league. In 2011, the Bengals finished with the 7th ranked defense in total yards and 9th ranked defense in points allowed.

In 2012, the Bengals finished with the 6th ranked defense in total yards and 8th ranked defense in points allowed,[4] prompting the Cleveland Browns to interview Zimmer for their head coaching vacancy.[5] The Browns eventually hired former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski on January 11, 2013.[6]

Minnesota Vikings[edit]

On January 15, 2014, Zimmer earned his first head coaching position when the Minnesota Vikings hired him to replace Leslie Frazier. Zimmer is the 9th head coach in Vikings history.[7]

Zimmer earned his first win as the Vikings Head Coach on September 7, 2014 against the St. Louis Rams with a score of 34–6.

He ended his first year with a 7–9 record, an improvement over the 2013 record of 5–10–1, and the best record for a first year head coach in the Minnesota Vikings franchise since Dennis Green in 1992.

In 2015, Zimmer improved on his 2014 record by ending the season with a record of 11–5 and winning the NFC North, ending Green Bay's streak of four consecutive division titles and giving the Vikings their first since 2009.[8] At TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings lost the wild-card playoff round to the Seattle Seahawks 10–9 while playing in subzero temperatures and the third-coldest game in NFL history.[9][10]

On July 28, 2016, Zimmer signed a contract extension with the Vikings. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Zimmer suffered a detached retina during the October 31, 2016 Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears. On a windy night at Soldier Field, the edge of Zimmer's playcard, which was laminated, blew into his eye. Zimmer underwent emergency eye surgery on November 30, 2016 forcing him to miss the Vikings' Thursday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys. Special teams coach Mike Priefer served as interim coach for the game.[11] Zimmer finished the 2016 NFL season with a record of 8–8 and the Vikings failed to make the playoffs.

In 2017, Zimmer led the Vikings to one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. The Vikings finished 13–3, tallying the seventh-best regular season record in franchise history in terms of win percentage, and the second-best 16-game regular season record in franchise history. Only the 1998 Vikings hold a better record, at 15–1. In the playoffs, the 2017 Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round with a last-second touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs, which became known as the "Minnesota Miracle".[12] They then lost the NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.

On September 9, 2018, Zimmer became the fourth head coach in Minnesota Vikings history to get 40 wins. The Vikings finished the 2018 season with a record of 8–7–1 and failed to make the playoffs.

On February 27, 2019, the Vikings exercised their option to keep Zimmer through 2020. On October 24, 2019 Zimmer became just the third coach to surpass 52 franchise wins, surpassing Jerry Burns; trailing only Dennis Green (97) and longtime coach Bud Grant (158).[13]

The Vikings were able to return to the postseason in 2019, after not making it the previous year. After upsetting the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round, winning 26–20 in overtime, Minnesota fell to the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, 27–10.

In late July 2020, Zimmer signed a three-year contract extension, keeping him as the head coach through 2023.[14]

Hampered by injuries and opt-outs by many starting defensive players (including superstar defensive end Danielle Hunter missing the entire 2020 season with a neck injury and new free-agent acquisition Michael Pierce opting out of the season due to COVID-19), the Vikings suffered a 'down year' with a 7–9 record in 2020, missing the playoffs and finishing third in the NFC North. This was Zimmer's first losing season as a head coach since 2014.

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
MIN 2014 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC North
MIN 2015 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC North 0 1 .000 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Wild-Card Game
MIN 2016 8 8 0 .500 3rd in NFC North
MIN 2017 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to Philadelphia Eagles in NFC Championship Game
MIN 2018 8 7 1 .531 2nd in NFC North
MIN 2019 10 6 0 .625 2nd in NFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game
MIN 2020 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC North
Total 64 47 1 .576 2 3 .400
  • Before Week 13 of the 2016 season against the Dallas Cowboys, Zimmer had emergency eye surgery and was unable to coach the Vikings that week.[11]

Coaching tree[edit]

Zimmer has worked under eight head coaches:

Two of Zimmer's coaching assistants became head coaches in the NFL:

Six of Zimmer's coaching assistants have had past head coaching experience:

One of Zimmer's executives became a general manager in the NFL:

Personal life[edit]

Zimmer is the son of former NFL player and coach, Bill Zimmer, who died on August 12, 2015 at age 84.[15]

Zimmer's wife, Vikki, died unexpectedly at their Ohio home on October 8, 2009. Three days later, Zimmer was awarded the game ball by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis after the team's 17–14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.[16]

Zimmer has three children: Adam, Corri, and Marki.[17] Adam Zimmer is the current linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator for the Vikings.[18] Adam also served as an assistant linebackers coach with the New Orleans Saints during their Super Bowl-winning season.[19]

Zimmer owns a hunting lodge in Northern Kentucky.[20]


  1. ^ "Bob Lopez bio". University of Michigan Athletics. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  2. ^ Yasinskas, Pat (October 20, 2010). "Mike Zimmer rips Bobby Petrino". ESPN. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  3. ^ Hobson, Geoff. "Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Zimmer". Bengals.com. Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "cleveland.com". Stats.cleveland.com. November 1, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  5. ^ Cabot, Mary Cay (January 9, 2013). "Cleveland Browns Interviewing Rob Chudzinski, Mike Zimmer". Cleveland. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  6. ^ "Cleveland Browns hire Rob Chudzinski as head coach". Espn.go.com. January 11, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  7. ^ Mortensen, Chris. "Vikings hire Mike Zimmer as coach". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  8. ^ Delong, Katie (January 3, 2016). "Green Bay Packers fall to Minnesota Vikings 20–13 in NFC North Division championship game". fox6now.com. FOX News. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  9. ^ "Vikings, Seahawks Play 3rd Coldest Game in NFL History". KARE. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Associated Press. January 10, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  10. ^ Vensel, Matt (January 11, 2016). "Vikings Miss Late Field Goal Attempt, Lose 10–9 to Seahawks". Star Tribune. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Goessling, Ben (December 1, 2016). "Mike Zimmer has emergency eye surgery, won't coach Thursday". ESPN.
  12. ^ Dyer, Kristian (February 7, 2018). "Stefon Diggs will never tire of attention after 'Minneapolis Miracle'". Sporting News. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  13. ^ Peters, Craig (February 27, 2019). "Spielman: Mike Zimmer's Contract Extended Through 2020". Vikings.com.
  14. ^ Williams, Charean (July 24, 2020). "Mike Zimmer's extension through 2023 finalized". NBC Sports. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  15. ^ "Mike Zimmer's Father, a Coach's Coach, Dies at 84". Twin Cities. August 13, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  16. ^ Reedy, Joe (October 9, 2009). "Bengals coach's wife dies". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Archived from the original on December 4, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "Get To Know Mike Zimmer, The New Head Coach Of The Minnesota Vikings". Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  18. ^ "Vikings Announce 2014 Coaching Staff". Minnesota Vikings. February 6, 2014. Archived from the original on January 12, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  19. ^ "Scenes from a Super sideline". NFL. February 10, 2010.
  20. ^ Watkins, Steve. "Get a look inside NFL head coach's new Northern Kentucky house:". bizjournals.com. Cincinnati Business Courier. Retrieved January 31, 2018.

External links[edit]