It appeared Rex Ryan was in a position of ending his near decade away from an NFL sideline. The Dallas Cowboys had owner Jerry Jones touting him, even giving a glowing review of Ryan’s interview with PFN before the NFL Honors ceremony.
But instead, Jones and the Cowboys plan to turn to another past head coach and longtime defensive mind: Mike Zimmer.
Cowboys Tab Mike Zimmer as Dan Quinn Replacement
Zimmer, the former Minnesota Vikings head coach who was fired after the 2021 season, will take over for Dan Quinn as the Cowboys’ 2024 defensive coordinator. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was first to report.
The #Cowboys are expected to hire Mike Zimmer as their defensive coordinator, per sources.
Zimmer, 67, is the third-winningest head coach in #Vikings history and long respected for his defensive prowess. A big hire for Dallas, where Zimmer previously coached from 1994-2006. pic.twitter.com/jFq8KdIyNJ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 9, 2024
This will also be a homecoming for Zimmer as Pelissero noted. He held roles from nickels coach, defensive backs coach all the way to being a former DC in Dallas — the latter role he held between 2000 to 2006.
He even was maintained by Bill Parcells when he was named Cowboys head coach in 2003. During that time, Zimmer went from a four-man front to running a 3-4 scheme. He also got a chance to coach a young future Hall of Famer named DeMarcus Ware.
Dallas opened the position after Dan Quinn accepted the offer to become head coach of the rival Washington Commanders. Quinn bequeaths the league’s fifth-ranked defense over to the returning Zimmer.
Dallas, however, is yet to make a formal announcement of Zimmer’s hire per Cowboys insider Clarence Hill. Except, Hill reports that the Cowboys have made no agreement yet for their next DC.
Cowboys sources say they have no agreement with anyone for dc
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) February 9, 2024
Jerry Jones Spoke Highly of Rex Ryan to PFN
Zimmer’s name and hire, though, comes amid Jones speaking glowingly of Ryan.
Jones told PFN’s Adam Beasley Thursday in Las Vegas during Super Bowl week that Ryan’s name was among the list of candidates who interviewed for the open defensive coordinator position.
But by Jones’ words during his appearance for Super Bowl week, his interview with Ryan left him and the Cowboys with some intrigue.
“Rex Ryan? Yes. He interviewed two days ago for that [position],” Jones tells PFN.
Jones then got asked what would the current analyst bring to the Cowboys if hired.
“He’d bring about as much football knowledge and about as much passion as you can put out there,” Jones said. “He’s an outstanding candidate. That’s not a token interview.”
— David Bearman (@DavidBearmanPFN) February 9, 2024
This wouldn’t have been the first time Ryan was linked to a defensive coordinator opening.
In 2023, he appeared on the list of potential DC candidates for the Denver Broncos after the franchise hired Sean Payton as head coach. Vance Joseph ended up making his return to the team to run the Broncos’ defense.
But again, Ryan has been away from a headset and sideline since 2016, when he coached his final season with the Bills.
Still, the 61-year-old is no stranger to running elite defenses. He spent 10 years on the Baltimore Ravens staff including winning the 2000 season Super Bowl as the defensive line coach. He eventually worked his way to defensive coordinator before accepting his first head coaching job with the Jets in 2009.
Right away, Ryan and the Jets enjoyed immediate success by going on consecutive AFC Championship game runs. However, his Jet teams lost to the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in both appearances. He never went back to the playoffs following the 2010 season. Ryan compiled a 61-66 overall record as head coach.
As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!