With Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden locked into a 3-year, 3.6 million dollar extension, all eyes are fixed on the future of Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer has emerged as the apparent front runner for the Miami Dolphins, and reports surfaced yesterday that the Bengals granted Tampa Bay permission to talk to him as well. NFL Insider Jason La Canfora tweeted:
Hear a strong buzz about Mike Zimmer’s interview in Miami. May get asked back.
The Dolphins interest makes sense. GM Jeff Ireland worked with Zimmer in Dallas, and he has the endorsement of Bill Parcells, who still exerts influence in South Florida. Tampa Bay’s emergence
could signal unhappiness with the crop of candidates they’ve already interviewed, including former coaches Mike Sherman, Brad Childress, and Marty Schottenheimer. They also expressed a desire to talk with Wade Phillips, but he withdrew his name from consideration.
From a Bengal perspective, the team seems eager to assist Zimmer in his head coaching aspirations, with Marvin Lewis and several players openly supporting him.
“If Mike gets an opportunity, that would be fantastic,” Lewis said at the end of the season, “and we’ll do nothing but be very supportive of him and any opportunity he gets a chance at.” This sentiment was shared by safety Chris Crocker who said, “We hope for nothing but the best for him. Hopefully one day he will become a head coach in this league.”
If Zimmer lands a gig, the next thing Bengal Nation will need to look out for is Cincy assistants going with him. NFL rules permit teams to deny requests from other clubs to interview their assistants under contract, and the Bengals exercised that right last year when Philadelphia asked to speak with Secondary Coach Kevin Coyle about their open defensive coordinator position.
However, there may be some movement south if Zimmer lands a gig. One possibility could be QB Coach Ken Zampese. While many people have speculated that recently-fired Raiders coach Hue Jackson could land as Zimmer’s OC, I’m not so sure. This speculation is based solely on them sharing coordinator duties on Bobby Petrino’s 2007 Falcons staff. Seems thin to me, especially considering how bad that year went for Atlanta. By contrast, Zimmer has four years working with Zampese, and with a very QB friendly coach on staff in Jay Gruden, and Zampese having been granted permission to seek OC jobs in the past, this seems like a strong possibility.
Another possibility could be Coyle. Like Zampese, Zimmer has four years of experience working with Coyle, and he can rely on Coyle sharing his philosophy.
Lewis and the organization may be inclined to allow one or both of these assistants to follow Zimmer to the Sunshine State. It’s clear the team has been supportive of Zampese’s career aspirations in the past, and allowing him to leave might give Gruden a chance to bring in “his” guy to tutor Andy Dalton.
Allowing Coyle to follow Zimmer would give Lewis the opportunity to bring in one of his cronies from Baltimore. Speculation seems to center around former Jags coach Jack Del Rio, who served as linebackers coach under Lewis in Baltimore. Another possible name for defensive coordinator (or secondary coach) would be Mike Nolan. The former head coach in San Francisco and current Dolphins defensive coordinator could be out in Miami. Nolan also worked with Lewis in Baltimore.
I think the Bengals would be happy to keep the staff entirely intact, but if Coach Zim is able to land a well-deserved head job, it will be interesting to see if other assistants go with him.