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Defensive guru Zimmer will have work to do with Vikings

  • Article by: Kent Youngblood and Master Tesfatsion
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • January 15, 2014 - 11:48 PM

Mike Zimmer has the résumé. In nearly 15 years as a defensive coordinator, he has proved flexible and pragmatic while consistently getting results.

So how will that transfer to the Vikings?

For all the talk that the Vikings needed an offensive guru, it is the defense that needs fixing first. And Zimmer, who has run both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, inherits a Vikings defense that finished 31st in the league in yards allowed and dead last in points allowed (480), and one that figures to undergo a massive change in both personnel and scheme.

Goodbye Cover 2, hello … Well, to what?

“We’re not sure what type of defense he’s going to run because of the different backgrounds he’s had over the years,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. “But it’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of things we do under a new scheme.”

The Vikings did not officially announce Zimmer’s hire until Wednesday night, and his first news conference is not scheduled until Friday. Until then, most of what he will do with X’s and O’s is left to speculation.

Zimmer will hire a new defensive coordinator. But it is expected that, given Zimmer’s background and the amount of work needed on that side of the ball, he likely will be heavily involved with the defense, bringing both his schemes and his intense style.

On the other side, the Vikings already have received permission from Cleveland to interview offensive coordinator Norv Turner, according to NFL.com. A former head coach for three teams, Turner has an extensive — and successful — history as a coordinator with Dallas (the Cowboys won two Super Bowls in his time there), San Diego, Miami and San Francisco.

His Browns offense helped engineer an upset victory over the Vikings Sept. 22.

Other names that have been rumored for consideration as offensive coordinator include former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and former Vikings tight end Mike Mularkey, who like Turner also are former NFL head coaches.

But it is on defense where Zimmer’s presence likely will be most strongly felt.

Zimmer has the reputation of communicating well with players and being adept at assembling defenses that were effective even without a lot of star power.

The Cowboys had top-five scoring defenses six times during Zimmer’s 21 seasons as either Dallas’ secondary coach or defensive coordinator. When Zimmer was the coordinator, the Cowboys had top-10 finishes in yards allowed using both a 4-3 scheme and a 3-4 scheme requested by then-head coach Bill Parcells.

Zimmer was defensive coordinator in Cincinnati starting in 2008. He inherited a defense that finished 27th in yards allowed and improved it to 12th in his first season. Since 2009, Cincinnati has had a top-five ranking in yards allowed four times.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things about him,” Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford said. “I heard he’s a passionate coach, a player coach, a man of respect.’’

A man used to getting results.

“I would love to do a hybrid type of defense,” Robison said. “Maybe throw in some 3-4 plays, some 4-3 plays. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. Bottom line is if he decides we’re going to do a 3-4, I’m open to being a 3-4 outside linebacker. We stay with the 4-3, I’m totally fine with that, too.’’

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