With questions surrounding the job security of Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, owner Mark Wilf released a statement on Friday afternoon that said, “We value Mike and Rick’s leadership and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond.”
However, multiple sources have told Pro Football Network Insider Tony Pauline that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has worn out his welcome in Minnesota. And despite the public statement from Wilf, Pauline reports that there’s a very real possibility he could get fired if the Vikings do not pull off the upset win over the New Orleans Saints in this weekend’s NFC Wild Card game. Sources went on to tell Pauline that if the Vikings do fire Zimmer, expect offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to be named the team’s new head coach.
But don’t expect Zimmer to be out of a job for long. If this happens, Pauline has heard that Zimmer would become the leading candidate to replace Jason Garrett as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. PFN Insider Ben Allbright also reports that Zimmer would be a serious candidate in Dallas if he were to be fired from the Vikings.
Zimmer’s coaching career in Minnesota
Zimmer would leave behind a 57-38-1 overall record with the Vikings over six years. He’s taken his team to the playoffs in three seasons, counting this year, but only winning one game in 2017. You may remember that win.
It was against the New Orleans Saints and featured a last-second touchdown from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs that became known as the “Minneapolis Miracle.” They would lose the following week to eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, but their place in NFL history was already cemented the week before.
Over his lengthy career, Zimmer has become known as a defensive specialist who prefers to run the ball and chew the clock. After the 2018 season, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was reportedly at odds with Coach Zimmer on how the offense should be run and was subsequently fired and replaced with Kevin Stefanski prior to the 2019 season. DeFilippo wound up getting hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator and helped head coach Doug Marrone lead them to a disappointing 6-10 record in 2019.
Zimmer got his start with the Cowboys under Barry Switzer as an assistant coach in 1994. He then became the defensive backs coach from 1995-2000, and was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator under Dave Campo and Bill Parcells before leaving the team after the 2006 campaign. Zimmer then worked for the Atlanta Falcons for a season before working as the defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals for six years.
It’s very likely that the Cowboys want to go with someone that brings a reputation for winning and playoff success, something they didn’t have with soon-to-be former head coach Jason Garrett. Additionally, Jerry Jones has a flair for the dramatic, and hiring a coach from a winning team immediately after they lose in the playoffs would make for some great chatter across the league.
This kind of press and publicity would be right up Jones’ alley and could easily be seen as a step in the right direction for rabid Cowboy fans.
What would it mean for the Cowboys if Zimmer isn’t fired?
While Jones may prefer to have someone with previous NFL experience, he may have to look at the college ranks if Zimmer is not fired. In that scenario, expect the Cowboys to target Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley. Additionally, they will be interested in talking to Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule and former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
The fallout in Cleveland if Zimmer is fired
This is certainly an interesting scenario to watch play out because not only would it affect the Cowboys and Vikings, but it could affect the Cleveland Browns. That’s because sources have told Pauline and Allbright that Stefanski is a leading candidate in Cleveland. In fact, some people are led to believe that he is their top candidate at this time.
As noted above, Stefanski would likely be promoted to the head coach spot in Minnesota if Zimmer is fired. This would force the Browns to move onto the likes of McCarthy and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
For more news on head coaches, coordinators, and general manager interviews, be sure to follow our 2020 NFL Interview Tracker. We will continue to monitor the situation and update as more news becomes available.