Why Mike Zimmer Should be the Redskins Next Head Coach?
Mike Zimmer has been coaching in the NFL for 20 years now, including the past 14 years as a defensive coordinator. Zimmer is considered one of the top coordinators in the league and has been on the short list for a number of head coaching jobs over the years. He’s considered a no nonsense coach, who can get the most out of his players, which is something the Redskins need.
Zimmer has worked under Bill Parcells and Marvin Lewis (among others) in his coaching career, which is pretty impressive. Those are two of the most respected and talented defensive minds of recent NFL history, so his time with them is a major plus for his resume. Zimmer was the Cowboys defensive coordinator prior to Bill Parcells taking over, but was retained by Parcells despite the fact that Dallas would be changing defenses eventually from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and Zimmer’s background was in 4-3. Not many coordinators are retained when a new head coach comes in, particularly when it is one with the stature, respect and power of a Parcells. It’s even more rare to occur when the team is changing their schemes so drastically. The fact that Zimmer was so respected to keep his coordinator role under Parcells, should speak volumes of where Zimmer stands in his abilities.
Zimmer’s abilities have also been shown in the success that his defenses have had over the years. Of his 14 years as a defensive coordinator his defense has been in the top 10 in the league in yards allowed seven times. Additionally another 4 times his defenses finished 16 or better. That means in 11 of 14 years his defense has been in the top half of the league in yards allowed. Five times in 14 seasons his teams have finished top 10 in points allowed, and two other times they finished in the top 16. Zimmer has been at his best since joining the Bengals, with never finishing below 15th in yards allowed in 6 seasons in Cincinnati, and having four of his five top ten finishes in points allowed. Zimmer was named NFL Assistant of the Year by Pro Football Weekly and CBS Sports in 2009 for his work on helping the Bengals get to the AFC Championship Game.
Zimmer would be one of the top coaching options who could be trusted to rebuild this Redskins defense which is currently worst in the league in points allowed. Zimmer has experience in either the 3-4 or 4-3 so if needed he could go either way, but would probably likely move back to the 4-3 where most of his experience lies. Given Zimmer’s time in Dallas, he understands how to make that transition effectively, by getting the right guys in place. That is something Mike Shanahan didn’t do when he came to DC and it set back this defense.
One thing that could be a big positive for Zimmer is his understanding of the value of the NFL Draft. Though he’s never run a draft room or been a head coach, he’s been around a pair of coaches in Parcells and Lewis who appreciate the importance of building through the draft. Parcells was an old school guy, who believed strongly in building through the draft. Some of his picks (Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff) made a major impact for the Cowboys long after he was gone from the team. Marvin Lewis is perhaps even more impressive with his ability to draft and stockpile talent. The Bengals have the cheapest owner in the league, and Cincinnati has the smallest scouting department. Despite that the Bengals typically have been pretty successful in the draft and have built up a team with very impressive depth. Zimmer lost his top defensive player, DT Geno Atkins, a month ago yet his defense has barely missed a beat. With his time with the Bengals, Zimmer will definitely understand the value of the draft and should be a strong voice in the War Room.
Why Mike Zimmer will want to work for the Redskins:
Zimmer has come up just short for multiple openings over the years, so he’s not likely to be too picky. Unlike a former top head coach, who can more easily choose his next job, a veteran coordinator like Zimmer is going to jump at the chance to get a head coaching job.
Zimmer may have his work cut out for him on defense, but there is at least a foundation with pass rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside, and Barry Cofield on the interior. There are a lot of other holes, but with those three guys up front (likely in a 4-3), Zimmer would at least have a start and the most important positions taken care of. Offensively, the Redskins have their QB, RB, LT, top WR and top TE taken care of, so Zimmer knows he won’t have to invest much there early on as he’s building up the defense. The Redskins foundation is a strong selling point for any coach.
Another big selling point for any coach is Dan Snyder’s willingness to spend money. Not only does that apply to the coaches salary and his assistants, but building the roster up as well. Zimmer has just worked under the cheapest organization for the previous six years and has watched the Bengals avoid the free agency market and even let some of their own players walk. With the Redskins he knows that the G.M. will have the financial ability to retain his guys, as well as get him the pieces he needs to be successful.
Will it Happen?:
The biggest issue here is will Mike Zimmer even be on the Redskins short list? Since taking over the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder has never hired a coordinator to be head coach. They did bump Jim Zorn up after originally hiring him as their offensive coordinator, but he’d never been anything more than a QB coach for an actual season. Snyder has gone after big name NFL and College head coaches and may look to do the same here as well. In that case Zimmer won’t get the consideration he deserves. The Redskins may also opt to go for an offensive coach, which has been their preference in recent years, and many feel could be the best for developing RGIII (which really isn’t an issue as Mike Shanahan’s an offensive coach and that hasn’t worked out too well). If the team is dead set on either a former head coach or (possibly and as well) an offensive minded guy, Zimmer won’t even get a look.
If the team is more open in their approach, and Zimmer comes in for an interview he definitely has the track record, references and ability to wow the Redskins and get this job. There are plenty of qualified candidates, but Zimmer is one of the better ones out there and makes sense for a lot of reasons.