Cowboys hire Zimmer as DC after uncertainty

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The Cowboys reached agreement Monday with Mike Zimmer to make the former Minnesota Vikings coach Dallas’ new defensive coordinator.

“I’m excited and honored to be back with a great organization,” Zimmer told ESPN’s Ed Werder. “I’m thrilled to work with Mike McCarthy, for whom I have had a ton of respect in our NFC North days, and to do anything I can do to help the Joneses and the Cowboys.”

A source had confirmed to ESPN last week that Zimmer was expected to be hired as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. But ESPN analyst Rex Ryan, who had talked to the team about the job, said on ESPN’s “Postseason NFL Countdown” on Sunday, “I’m not so sure Zimmer has that job right now. I’m not sure about that. I can honestly say I don’t believe that’s a fact right now.”

And on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Cowboys had reached back out to Ryan on Sunday about the position.

However, Zimmer and the Cowboys agreed to contract terms Monday afternoon. He replaces Dan Quinn, who was hired last week as the Washington Commanders’ new coach after a three-year run as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.

Zimmer, 67, was a Cowboys assistant coach from 1994 to 2006, starting as a defensive assistant, moving to defensive backs in 1995 — the last season for which Dallas won a Super Bowl — and serving as the coordinator from 2000 to 2006 under two different head coaches, Dave Campo (2000-02) and Bill Parcells (2003-06).

From 2014 to 2021, Zimmer was head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, compiling a 74-59-1 record that included three playoff appearances. His time in the NFC North made him more familiar with McCarthy, then the Green Bay Packers’ coach.

Zimmer is the third defensive coordinator McCarthy will have in five seasons. Mike Nolan handled the job in 2020 but was replaced by Quinn after the Cowboys gave up a franchise-record 473 points. Quinn oversaw a defense that led the NFL in takeaways in 2021 and 2022 while helping the Cowboys to three straight 12-5 seasons and three trips to the playoffs.

ESPN’s Todd Archer contributed to this report.

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