Mike Zimmer is in his fourth season as Bengals defensive coordinator, coming off a 2010 campaign during which his unit held its own despite a rash of player losses due to injuries.
The Bengals managed a top-half finish (15th) in yards allowed (332.0), despite the fact that among 17 players who went on the Reserve/Injured list, nine were veteran defenders due starting positions or significant playing time when healthy.
“We finished about average, but I’m proud of the effort we got from our guys,” Zimmer said. “We can do better this year and I believe we will, just from presumably having more of our top guys available.”
The 2010 defense allowed an average of only 73.7 rushing yards over the last three games, and the Cincinnati pass rush was vastly improved as the season wore on. Held to only six sacks in the first seven games (0.86 per outing), the Bengals posted 21 over the last nine games (2.33 per game). The pressure was led by DE Carlos Dunlap, who set a Bengals rookie record with 9.5 sacks.
In 2009, a healthier year for the defense, Zimmer earned NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers and from CBSSports.com. He also won the assistant of the year award from FOX broadcaster and Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
Supporting the Bengals run to the 2009 AFC North championship, the defense ranked No. 4 in the NFL (301.4 yards allowed per game) and led the team to a No. 6 ranking in scoring defense (18.2).
Zimmer is in his 18th season as an NFL coach, and 2011 marks his 12th straight year as a coordinator. He was Dallas defensive coordinator from 2000-06, including four years (’03-06) under head coach Bill Parcells. Zimmer moved to the Atlanta Falcons as coordinator in 2007 and signed with the Bengals on Jan. 15, 2008.
Zimmer joined the NFL with Dallas in 1994, working his first six seasons as secondary coach.
He led top 10 defenses for Dallas in both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. His 4-3 defenses finished No. 4 in net yards allowed (287.4) in 2001 and No. 1 in ’03 (253.5). And in 2005, Zimmer installed a 3-4 scheme, marking the Cowboys’ first departure from the 4-3 since the club was founded in 1960. In that transition year, Dallas finished 10th in the NFL in total defense.
Six times during Zimmer’s tenure as secondary coach and coordinator, the Cowboys finished fifth or better in the NFL in scoring defense. The No. 1-ranked yardage defense that he coordinated in 2003 was No. 2 in league scoring defense (16.3). Three of those Dallas defenses led the NFL in fewest passing yards. Also during that tenure, Zimmer guided the careers of eight defensive players who made a combined total of 23 Pro Bowl appearances.
Zimmer earned a Super Bowl ring as secondary coach with the 1995 Cowboys team that defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX. One of Zimmer’s players, unheralded CB Larry Brown, won the game’s MVP award with a pair of interceptions.
Zimmer coached 15 years in the college ranks before joining the Cowboys, working at Missouri, Weber State and Washington State.
Zimmer was born on June 5, 1956, in Peoria, Ill. He played QB and later LB at Illinois State. He has three children — son Adam and daughters Corri and Marki. Adam Zimmer earned a Super Bowl ring in 2009 as defensive assistant/linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints. Mike’s father, Bill, made the Illinois Hall of Fame as a prep football and wrestling coach.
Vikki Zimmer, Mike’s wife of 27 years, passed away in Cincinnati on Oct. 8, 2009. The Pro Football Writers of America recognized Zimmer’s ordeal, and the defense’s strong 2009 performance, by voting him the organization’s ’09 Halas Award, which goes annually to the individual in the NFL who overcame the most adversity to succeed.
PLAYING AND COACHING HISTORY - 1974-76: Played QB and later LB at Illinois State. 1979-80: Assistant coach (AC), Missouri. 1981-82: AC, Weber State. 1983-88: Defensive coordinator, Weber State. 1989-93: Defensive coordinator, Washington State. 1994-99: AC, Dallas Cowboys. 2000-06: Defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys. 2007: Defensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons. 2008-present: Defensive Coordinator, Bengals.