If he Wants to Coach, Mike Zimmer Could get an Opportunity Beside an Old Friend

Truth be told, there are very few people out there who know where/if Mike Zimmer will coach in 2023. It’s possible he isn’t particularly interested in working. A few weeks ago, we learned the very unfortunate news that Adam Zimmer – his son and former Vikings defensive coordinator – passed away. If Zimmer decides he needs time away, then that’s totally understandable.

If, however, he wants to coach again, then there’s a good chance he could find an opportunity.

He’s a talented defensive coach. By the end, the Vikings’ defense displayed plenty of shortcomings. Nevertheless, it’d be misguided to take those struggles as indication that Zim doesn’t know how to coach defense. There are reasonable criticisms about how things went down in Minnesota, and yet it’s also true that he knows a ton about defense.

Last week, there was some chatter that Mike Zimmer was going to follow Deion Sanders to Colorado. Perhaps that’ll take place. Again, I really don’t know where he’ll end up.

That being said, I’m keeping my eye on one spot: wherever Sean Payton goes.

From what I can gather, Payton still has a lot of supporters in the NFL. He’s widely considered among the game’s most brilliant offensive minds. A lot of Vikings fans will bristle at that notion, though it’d be hard to overlook how much success he had with the Saints. He has a .631 winning percentage as a head coach. Legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant finished his coaching career with a .621 winning percentage, so Payton’s record is no joke (Zimmer, if you’re curious, has a .562 winning percentage).

The connection between Payton and Zimmer goes back to both being Bill Parcells disciples. They’re good friends, a reality that was evident even when their teams were competing in recent playoff games. The thinking is simply that Payton will need a defensive general to help him; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time in NFL history that a head coach dipped into his circle of friends to fill a spot on his staff.

There has been some chatter about Payton’s desire to head to a franchise with an established QB. Take a look at how the Bleacher Report piece describes the situation: “Former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is expected to have his pick of NFL head-coaching vacancies this offseason, but he’s reportedly expected to be patient in picking out his next job.” Shortly thereafter, there is some speculation about the Cardinals and Chargers.

Similar to the Zimmer rumors, it’s supremely difficult to know what Payton will actually do. More recently, though, Payton did express his desire to get back into coaching: “I know that I want to coach again and it’s not really been a secret.”

In essence, all I’m doing here is some purple dot connecting. There are going to be NFL head coach openings; Payton has a long history of success and has expressed his desire to coach again. Given that he’s an offensive coach, he’ll need to hire someone to be the defensive coordinator. It’s well known that he’s friends with Mike Zimmer, a coach with a long history of putting together elite defenses.

As a result, I’ve got my eye on Payton’s decision in the offseason. It’s no sure thing that he’ll hire Zim to be his defensive coordinator, but it also wouldn’t be totally shocking, either.

Regardless of what happens with coaching, the hope is that Zimmer is doing well. The news about Adam Zimmer’s passing was a startling reminder that there are things out there that are far more important than football, such as one’s family. If Zimmer decides that he wants to get back to coaching, then so be it. If he needs time away, then we should respect that decision.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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