Bringing in Mike Shanahan to fire up our offense is exciting, but unless we have a guy on the sideline leading our defense who is capable of carrying on the stingy and tough-nosed tradition we have established on that side of the ball, it is all for naught.
Mike Zimmer is a guy I am comfortable with as the next defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins and I'll offer a few reasons why and then maybe you can provide your own impressions of him in the comments below.
1) I never watched a season of Hard Knocks on HBO before. Mostly because it seemed like it was always about the Cowgirls. But this preseason, the show featured the Cincinnati Bengals. I have always liked Marvin Lewis (should have been our head coach instead of that gutless bastard Spurrier) and I have found that Bengals team intriguing over the years. So I tuned in and watched every episode and a couple of things happened. First, I came away so impressed with what I saw, I picked the Bengals to finish first in their division ahead of the Steelers (don't think I am going to let that one die either). Second, the style and fire of Mike Zimmer left a lasting impression on me. He was relentless. They took you inside his meetings and hung his candor on display from the practice field to the locker room. I bet when Hollywood script writers envision a defensive coach, Mike Zimmer is the guy they put down on paper. You know the kind: fiery, vocal, intense, demanding nothing less than Hall of Fame-type performances on every single play. He was simultaneously blunt and sympathetic with his players. He mixed very few words, but in his dealings with his players, you got the sense he considered himself right there in the foxhole with them. And as the show progressed, it became clear that the players were buying into it. To name one example, at one point in the preseason he tells his players that the only reason they are in Cincinnati--including him--is because nobody else wanted them. He convinced them that each man had an opportunity to contribute to the reformation of the perception of that franchise (you think that would be important in D.C.?) As a man and a coach, Mike Zimmer made a very strong impression on me through that show.
2) Despite my lifelong mission to learn everything via television, in this case it only tells some of the story. Earlier this season, Mike Zimmer got home to discover his wife's lifeless body. He called 911 but she had already passed. Every man must decide how to handle this kind of situation for himself. Zimmer decided that he had to be on the sidelines and coached his defense three days later against what was, at the time, the AFC's best offense in the Baltimore Ravens. It comes as no shock that this rallied guys on the Bengals, but the results on the field were shocking. They held the Ravens to 14 points and won what was deemed one of the franchise's biggest victories in years. If you watched the show Hard Knocks, you saw Mike Zimmer bring in cookies for his players. He did it in the sheepish, shy manner a small child might when bringing in cookies for his classmates. It turned out that his wife, Vikki, watched Hard Knocks too and she thought her husband was being too hard on the guys so she wanted to try and do something nice. You can never underestimate the power of emotion in the game of football. Mike Zimmer, like previous defensive coordinators here, is not afraid to commingle his personal life with his professional life, and the result is a group of players that feels much more bound to him, and much more willing to follow him.
3) Impressions and emotions are great and all, but how did he do on the field? In his first season with the Bengals in 2008, they finished 12th in overall yards allowed. If you recall, they lost a ridiculous amount of front-line players over the course of a lost season. But they finished strong, allowing just 19 total points in three straight wins to close out the season (one of which was against our Skins.) In 2009, Zimmer improved on that, fielding the league's 4th best defense in overall yards allowed. They were 6th against the pass, and 7th against the run, sporting top ten interception totals and middle-of-the-pack sack totals. He lost his sack master early this year when Antwan Odom went down with an Achilles injury. Odom had eight sacks through six games, including a 5-sack festival against the Packers.
While it is not yet official that Zimmer is coming, the rumors are enough to get me fired up to write this article. One of my biggest concerns is that our defense is given the best possible direction in what will undoubtedly be an offensive-minded head coach. Mike Zimmer would ensure that our defense remains in good hands.