Even the most serious NFL survivors like Zimmer have a coaching expiration date
Oh my God, a lot has happened in the NFL coaching world since January 2014, when Mark and Zygi Wilf tied their purple carts to a 57-year-old defensive coordinator from Cincinnati.
During these eight years …
- Twenty-six teams have hired 54 head coaches, including Mike Zimmer and his six long-dismissed classmates in 2014.
- Twenty-eight head coaches have been fired 29 times.
- Yes, Adam Gase was hired, fired, hired again, and fired again.
- Dan Quinn got hired, went to a Super Bowl, led Tom Brady 28-3, lost and was fired four years later.
- Doug Pederson got hired, whipped Zimmer in an NFC title game, won the Super Bowl in Zimmer’s backyard, and, of course, got fired three years later.
- Todd Bowles went from assistant to head coach before being fired as assistant again ahead of Black Monday ’22. Ditto for Quinn.
- Pat Shurmur turned the “Minneapolis Miracle” into Giants head coach, was 9-23 and was fired.
- The Browns have changed head coaches four times.
- The 49ers have changed head coaches three times in three years. The Titans, Lions, Buccaneers, Broncos, Jets and Giants have also changed coaches three times.
- The door was shown to two Grudens.
- And an outmatched Urban Meyer lasted all 13 games before being sacked last month.
Yes indeed, the lifespan of an NFL head coach continues to diminish with the seasons. At least for those who aren’t a Belichick or who don’t work for a Rooney.
Remember January 12, 2017, when the Rams hired the wonderful boy, Sean McVay, at the age of 30 and 354 days? Well, Sean is now ninth among the NFL’s head coaches. At 35.
McVay could climb at least one rung on the seniority ladder after this season. Zimmer, seventh on this list, could be set to exit after Sunday’s game against the Bears put a black bow on a season filled with a lot of excitement but not enough wins to avoid his first consecutive non-playoff seasons. .
If this is indeed the end of the Zimmer era, you could argue that Zim got stuck somewhere in the middle of his profession, missing his window of opportunity in 2019 and backing down when the salary cap could no longer contain Kirk Cousins. And some of the Zimmer. key advocates.
Zimmer has always been good enough to stay one step ahead of the Grim Reaper who took down the guys who have been fired since he was hired. But he wasn’t good enough to match the success or possibly gain the extraordinary endurance of the six coaches ahead of him on the seniority list.
Each of those six – Bill Belichick (hired 2000), Sean Payton (2006), Mike Tomlin (2007), John Harbaugh (2008), Pete Carroll (2010), and Andy Reid (2013) – have won at least one Super Bowl. . . Zimmer got to the door of one but was beaten 38-7.
Meanwhile, a look at the 28 dismissed men since 2014 tells us only two of them had a better regular season winning percentage than Zimmer, who went 71-56-1 (0.559). Only Jim Caldwell of Detroit (class of 14), who went 36-26 (.563), and Mike Mularkey of Tennessee (class of ’16), who went 18-14 (.563), won more often than Zim.
Zimmer has three playoff seasons, two division titles and a 2-3 playoff record. Of the guys fired since he was hired, 18 have never made it to the playoffs, and only two of them have had more playoff wins. Pederson went 4-2. Quinn went 3-2.
So, again, Zim has been good enough in his eight-year partnership with general manager Rick Spielman to justify the Wilfs’ patience.
But there is a breaking point in all situations, a point when one diet’s turn ends and another takes over. Looks like the time has come in Minnesota for Zimmer and possibly Spielman.
If Sunday is Zimmer’s last game, at least try to remember him as one of the bravest survivors in the league.
When his wife, Vikki, died suddenly aged 50 in 2009, Zimmer coached the Bengals defense in a game three days later. His players offered him a game ball after a victory.
Despite considerable success as a coordinator, Zimmer had to wait until he was 58 before he coached his first game in the NFL. Bud Grant was the same age when he coached the last game of his 18-year career with the Vikings.
Upon arriving in Minnesota, Zimmer arrogantly said he would fix the league’s worst defense. Then he did.
Zimmer had to start four different quarterbacks in his first four seasons. Still, he won two division titles in four years and made it to a conference title game as an old-fashioned defensive coach at a time when the league was moving in the opposite direction.
Zimmer has often joked while writing a book detailing all the fires he has had to put out as a Viking coach. It would be a bestseller.
The Friday before Zimmer’s second game, Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. The Friday before what could have been Zimmer’s penultimate game, he lost Kirk Cousins ââon the COVID-19 roster and had no chance of winning a must-see match at Lambeau Field.
There is no place to list all the other fires that we know of in between. Maybe Zim can share some of these and the ones we don’t know if the Wilfs do indeed pick up the 65-year-old from their purple wagons.