Linebacker coach Paul Guenther succeeds Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator.
Mike Zimmer will become head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and the Bengals will name linebacker coach Paul Guenther to replace him as defensive coordinator, ESPN says.
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Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer complains to a referee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI -- Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has won the job as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and the Bengals have chosen linebacker coach Paul Guenther to replace him, ESPN reported Wednesday.
While the Vikings didn't announce Zimmer's hiring, Zimmer's daughter confirmed it on Twitter.
The Vikings and Zimmer's agent were continuing to negotiate the specific terms of the deal, according to ESPN.
"Gonna miss you coach Zimmer!" Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga posted on Twitter. "Wish you nothing but the best in Minnesota. You brought out the best in each of your players! So honored to have been coached by you!"
Cornerback Terence Newman seconded that:
"Today is one of the happiest and yet saddest days for me. Happy Coach Zimm finally gets to be a head coach and spread all of his knowledge," Newman tweeted.
Vikings tight end and Elder High grad Kyle Rudolph tweeted his approval.
"Fired up about Coach Zimmer!" Rudolph tweeted. "As a Cincy kid he's been fun to watch there and can't wait to work with him! Welcome to the (at) Vikings!"
The Bengals did not immediately comment on the report that Guenther would replace Zimmer.
Although the news of Zimmer's pending departure may come as a disappointment to some Bengals fans, it should not come as a surprise. The 57-year-old defensive guru has become a favorite of NFL executives over the past six years by converting the one-time "Bungles" into one of the most feared defenses in the league.
In 2013, the Bengals ranked third in total yards allowed and fifth in points allowed. The team has been in the top 10 in both of those categories each of the past three seasons and four of the past five.
Zimmer earned NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers and from CBSSports.com in 2009, after guiding the Bengals to the fourth-ranked defense in the league. It was rumored that Zimmer was the front runner for the job in Cleveland after a 2012 season that saw the Bengals finish with the sixth-ranked defense in total yards allowed and eight-ranked defense in points allowed. That job ultimately went to Rob Chudzinski, who was fired by the club after one season.
In total, Zimmer has interviewed for at least five head-coaching jobs over the years. He had two interviews with Tennessee Titans and was considered a candidate for at least two other job openings this offseason.
The Peoria, Ill., native was offered the University of Nebraska's head-coaching job in 2003 after he directed the Dallas Cowboys' defense to the No. 1 ranking in the league, according to ESPN. He was with the Cowboys from 1994 to 2006, serving as a defensive back coach until 2000 when he took over total control of the defense.
Zimmer also served as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator in 2007 before coming to Cincinnati in 2008 to rebuild one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Bengals' defense ranked 27th in the league in total yards allowed and 24th in points per game allowed the season before he took over.
He will have a similar repair job with the Vikings, where he'll look to improve a defense that surrendered the second-most yards and the most points in the NFL during the 2013 season. It was rumored that Zimmer wanted to bring Guenther with him to Minnesota to serve as defensive coordinator.
The Bengals lost their offensive coordinator last week when Jay Gruden became head coach of the Washington Redskins. Hue Jackson was promoted to OC.