Mike Zimmer on joining Cowboys: ‘I’ve always loved Dallas’

After more than two years away from NFL sidelines, Mike Zimmer is back.

The Dallas Cowboys introduced Zimmer on Wednesday as their new defensive coordinator at a joint news conference with head coach Mike McCarthy. Zimmer is replacing Dan Quinn, who was recently named the new head coach of the Washington Commanders.

Zimmer spent eight seasons as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach, and was fired after the team went 8-9 in 2021 and missed the NFC Playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Zimmer is back in Dallas after spending 13 seasons there as an assistant coach. He was the defensive coordinator from 2000-06.

"I’ve always loved Dallas, I’ve always loved the Cowboys. Did I ever think I’d be back? I don’t know. I always kind of hoped I would be," Zimmer said. "When my time was off, I had some phone calls of going places. I wanted to be somewhere where I knew people and trusted people. When this opportunity came up, I was excited."

Zimmer said he had interest from multiple NFL teams, but wanted to be where he felt most comfortable. That ended up being alongside McCarthy, a former NFC North rival when he was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

"When I was in the NFC North, he was the one I respected the most. They were the best team, the most well-coached, their teams played the right way. We tried to emulate a lot of those things," Zimmer said. "I knew right away it was the right opportunity. There was another club talking to me, but this is where I wanted to come. There was never a question of if I wanted to be here at all."

Zimmer took two years away from coaching to spend time with his family, including twin granddaughters. He also had to deal with the death of his son, Adam, on Halloween in October of 2022. Adam was a co-defensive coordinator under Mike with the Vikings.

Mike Zimmer is back and refreshed, and said he’s heard from several former players since joining the Cowboys. Known has a hard-nosed defensive coach, he went out of his way Wednesday to debunk the theory he’s not liked or respected by current NFL players who don’t take to his style.

"There’s a reputation out there that I’m a jerk or something like that. It is what it is, but since it was announced that I was going to be here, I’ve heard from so many players that played for me, linebackers and defensive linemen texted me and said how happy they are for me," Zimmer said. "I think if I was such a jerk I wouldn’t be hearing from those guys."