Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, believed to be the front-runner in the Vikings coaching search, is scheduled to arrive in the Twin Cities on Tuesday for a second interview that will include the team’s ownership.
Rick Spielman, the Vikings general manager, is in the third week of an extensive hunt for the successor of Leslie Frazier, who was fired Dec. 30.
Zimmer, 57, has been an NFL assistant for 20 seasons, including the past 14 as a defensive coordinator for three teams: Dallas, where he worked with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells for four seasons; Atlanta; and Cincinnati, where he revived a dormant defense and helped the Bengals post three consecutive playoff seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Zimmer has interviewed for several head coaching vacancies and come up short in recent years. According to the Tennesseean, he had a second interview with the Titans on Monday, just hours before Tennessee hired Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
Zimmer never has been a head coach in the NFL or in college, where he spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Missouri, Weber State and Washington State. Two other finalists are believed to have surfaced, and like Zimmer they are NFL defensive coordinators: the Cardinals’ Todd Bowles and the Seahawks’ Dan Quinn.
They are among the seven candidates Spielman has interviewed. Bowles is available immediately for a second interview, which might take place this week if the Vikings don’t move quickly to hire Zimmer. Quinn would not be available until next week because the Seahawks are in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
No second interview had been scheduled with Bowles as of late Monday, according to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which helps promote minority hiring in the NFL.
Also in Sunday’s NFC title game and unavailable until next week are two 49ers assistants, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They interviewed with Spielman on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., the day before their playoff victory over the Panthers.
Also known to have interviewed with Spielman are Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Vikings had interest in Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but he has refused all interview requests until after Denver’s season is over.
Zimmer’s NFL career began as a Cowboys defensive backs coach. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000 and held that post through 2006, coaching under Parcells during the last four seasons.
Zimmer led the Cowboys to top-10 finishes in yards allowed using both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. In 2003, they ranked No. 1.
Zimmer moved on to Atlanta as defensive coordinator in 2007 before joining the Bengals in 2008.
Before he arrived, the Bengals had one top-10 defensive ranking in the previous 18 seasons. They have achieved that feat in four of the past five years under Zimmer, including a No. 3 ranking (305.5) this season.
Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was named to the All-NFL and All-NFC teams by the Pro Football Writers of America on Monday. Patterson was the only Vikings selection on either team. The rookie, one of 17 first time All-NFL honorees, broke the franchise record for most kickoff return yards (1,393).