December 21, 2014

Is Mike Zimmer the Bengals’ Most Important Coach?

According to various Internet reports, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has now interviewed for the head coaching job with both the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It seems somewhat likely that Zimmer will get one of the jobs, leaving the Cincinnati Bengals with a vacancy at defensive coordinator.

And I can’t help but wonder what will happen when he leaves.

For a team that has often been mired in mediocrity and plagued by a lack of discipline, Zimmer has been the antidote. His fire-breathing, in-your-face style has elevated the defense and with it, the entire team. Even last year as the season was going southward, Carson Palmer was making his exit plans, and the defense was absolutely plundered with injuries, Zimmer held things together, keeping the unit competitive.

Now, he may be on his way out. He’s certainly deserving of the opportunity, having spent a lifetime in coaching and the last few years doing an admirable job that’s been largely unnoticed outside of Cincinnati. But the Bengals could struggle mightily without him if his replacement can’t replicate his intangibles.

I believe Zimmer is the Bengals most important coach. I think Marvin Lewis has a great eye for talent and Jay Gruden has the offense moving in the right direction. But it’s Zimmer, the demanding disciplinarian who has transformed the defense and with it, the identity of the entire team.

He’s earned the right to run an entire team himself, so I’ll wish him good luck.

But I’ll sure as heck miss him if he’s gone.