Zimmer, who just completed his fourth season with Cincinnati, was in charge of the NFL’s seventh-ranked defense in 2011 as the Bengals gave up an average of 316.3 total yards per game. Cincinnati’s pass defense ranked ninth, allowing an average of 211.6 yards per game through the air and its rushing defense ranked 10th, allowing an average of 104.7 yards per game on the ground.
Two years ago after the 2009 season, Zimmer was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by Pro Football Weekly, the Professional Football Writers of America and CBSSports.com. His defense finished with a No. 4 overall ranking (301.4 yards allowed per game) and No. 6 in scoring defense (18.2 points) as the Bengals captured the AFC North crown.
Zimmer is closing in on two decades as a coach in the NFL ranks, with the last 12 of his 18 seasons spent as a defensive coordinator. He served in that capacity with the Dallas Cowboys from 2000-06 and spent 2007 as the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons before signing on in Cincinnati on January 15th, 2008.
While in Dallas, Zimmer led top 10 defenses 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). 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.
As secondary coach in 1995, Zimmer earned a Super Bowl ring after the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. He received an extra bit of notoriety after one of his players, cornerback Larry Brown, won Super Bowl MVP honors.
Zimmer, who played quarterback and linebacker at Illinois State, 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. Zimmer’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 October 8th, 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.