MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Zimmer is finally a head coach in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings think now is the time for the veteran defensive coordinator.
The Vikings have hired Zimmer for their top coaching job, according to a person with knowledge of the process who spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Zimmer's contract had not been completed and the team had not announced the hiring.
News of the decision emerged early in the day, but the Vikings held off on publicizing it at all.
Their silence was strange, considering a report by ESPN that they had already requested and received permission from Cleveland to interview offensive coordinator Norv Turner for the same position in Minnesota. The top headline on the team website touted an area winner in the annual NFL Punt, Pass & Kick contest.
That doesn't mean the Vikings weren't delighted about the ninth head coach in their 54-year history. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, center John Sullivan and defensive end Brian Robison were among the players who expressed excitement about the former Bengals assistant via their Twitter accounts.
"Fired up about Coach Zimmer! As a Cincy kid he's been fun to watch there and can't wait to work with him!" Rudolph tweeted.
For the Bengals, the news was bittersweet. Zimmer, who has been an NFL defensive coordinator for the last 14 seasons, spent six of those with Cincinnati.
"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," cornerback Terence Newman tweeted.
The Bengals were third in the league in yards allowed and fifth in points against this season, though they lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.