The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly found their next defensive coordinator. The team has agreed to terms with veteran coach Mike Zimmer to lead the defense moving forward, according to NFL Media. Zimmer joins the Cowboys to replace Dan Quinn, who earlier this offseason accepted the head coaching job with the Washington Commanders.
“I’m excited and honored to be back with a great organization,” Zimmer said (via ESPN). “I’m excited to work with Mike McCarthy, who I had a lot of respect for during my NFC North days, and do everything I can to help the Joneses and the Cowboys.”
Zimmer’s deal with Dallas comes shortly after Rex Ryan, the former head coach of the New York Jets (2009-2014) and Buffalo Bills (2015-2016), pushed back on the reported hiring of Zimmer during an appearance on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown.” ” pregame show before Super Bowl LVII. Ryan was a candidate who also interviewed for Dallas’ vacant defensive coordinator position, and just seconds after ESPN’s Adam Schefter ran through a detailed report at the On the air about the Cowboys’ choice of Zimmer, Ryan disputed Schefter’s reporting.
“First of all, I’m not sure Zimmer has that job right now. I’m not sure,” Ryan said on ESPN on Sunday. “I can honestly say I don’t believe that’s a fact at this point.”
Ryan seemed to be doing his best to fight for the defensive coordinator job on a team he believes is about to get over the hump. Ryan said he called the Cowboys head coach early in the interview rounds to express interest. On Monday, Schefter added additional context to the confusion that followed Ryan’s rebuttal of Schefter’s on-air report.
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“The Cowboys loved Rex. Jerry Jones was ‘ready to run through a wall’ after listening to Rex”, Schefter said Monday afternoon on “The Pat McAfee Show” on ESPN. “They contacted Rex 15 minutes before this segment just to say ‘hey’.”
However, it appears the conversation didn’t result in the opportunity Ryan wanted. Zimmer had an advantage throughout the process given his history with the organization, so this could be seen as a homecoming of sorts. He first entered the NFL coaching ranks with Dallas in 1994 and was with the club until 2006. The final seven seasons of Zimmer’s tenure with the Cowboys were spent as defensive coordinator . He was also on staff as defensive backs coach when the team won Super Bowl XXX in 1995, the last time the organization hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
In addition to that familiarity with Jones and Cowboys ownership, McCarthy should also know Zimmer well, as they faced each other twice a year for five seasons in the NFC North when McCarthy coached the Packers and Zimmer the Vikings.
Zimmer, 67, last coached in the NFL in 2021, when he was still head coach at Minnesota. For his career, he has a record of 74-59-1 (2-3 in the playoffs). In addition to serving as defensive coordinator with Dallas, he also held that title with the Atlanta Falcons (2007) and the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-2013). Most recently, Zimmer was an analyst and consultant for Jackson State in 2022.
This defensive coordinator position with the Cowboys is arguably one of the most attractive non-head coaching positions in the league given Dallas’ talent on that side of the ball. Led by Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland and others, this defense has the ability to be the best unit in the NFL. During the 2023 regular season, the Cowboys allowed 18.5 points per game and 299.7 total yards per game, both of which were fifth best in the NFL. The club also had 26 takeaways in total. The Cowboys’ 93 takeaways under Quinn from 2021-23 are the most in the NFL.