American Football

Cowboys Mike Zimmer kept tabs on the NFL by working in media


Minnesota Vikings Introduce Mike Zimmer
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Mike Zimmer seemed to have made the most of his time away from football.

The biggest question fans are asking about Mike Zimmer’s return to an NFL sideline and as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator is, “Has he been away for too long?” The answer should be a resounding “no,” and here’s why. Yes, the last time Zimmer was seen coaching a defense was January 9, 2021 – three years ago. But it’s not like he spent all his time disconnected from the game until his recent opportunity with Dallas.

When asked how he spent his time away from football during his opening press conference, Zimmer mentioned doing analyst work with former NFL head coach Marvin Lewis and The 33rd Team. No, it’s not an under-the-radar expansion team no one knows about. Instead, it is a website created by former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum that “is a consortium of selfless, experienced people that have worked in the NFL, working with young, smart people.”

In layman’s terms—they have a variety of former NFL coaches and executives on their roster to give insight and analysis on the NFL using their wealth of knowledge and experiences from the game. Among those contributing to the site was Mike Zimmer.

His first video with the company was in August of 2022. It was about the Cowboys and how good their defense was entering the season.

From there, Zimmer would team up with his long-time friend Marvin Lewis to break down film and talk about matchups and happenings across the NFL on almost a weekly basis. One video that could interest fans has Zimmer breaking down the 49ers’ and Eagles’ defenses ahead of the 2022 NFC Championship Game.

Given the Cowboys’ recent struggles with defeating the Kyle Shanahan-led offense, Zimmer’s breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses could give a sneak peek of what he’ll be looking to attack when the teams play in 2024.

There’s been a history of coaches taking a year off from working in football only to come back with more understanding and a better plan of attack. The Cowboys know that all too well with their head coach, Mike McCarthy. He famously spent the 2019 season studying film and figuring out ways to add modern concepts to his offensive philosophies. He sold the Cowboys’ front office on his new way of thinking, which helped land him the job.

Sean Payton took a forced year off to work in broadcasting before being traded to the Denver Broncos to become their next head coach. For better or for worse, they ended the season on a promising trajectory in Denver after an abysmal start in Payton’s first year.

If it was Bill Cowher coming back to coach the Dallas defense, there could be an understandable trepidation with the decision. However, Zimmer has shown he can still analyze the modern game at a high level through his work with the media. Add that on top of his familiarity with the Cowboys brand, having coached in Dallas previously for 13 years, and it should be the recipe for success on defense the team is hoping for this season.

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