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Minnesota Vikings hire longtime assistant Mike Zimmer to be head coach

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Mike Zimmer (USA Today Sports Images)

Mike Zimmer has been in the coaching racket since 1979. This will be his first time as a head coach.

The longtime, highly successful assistant coach, who has been the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator since 2008, will become the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, replacing Leslie Frazier.

Zimmer, 57, has been a defensive coordinator since 2000, first with the Dallas Cowboys, one year with the Atlanta Falcons, and since with the Bengals. His tough demeanor is a stark contrast to the mild-mannered Frazier, and Zimmer twice was a star of HBO's "Hard Knocks" with his salty language and tough-love style.

He inherits a team that has some intriguing talent on both sides of the ball but is getting long in the tooth at a few key positions and must identify its quarterback of the future. It certainly is not either Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman, neither of whom proved themselves last season, and it's likely not Matt Cassel, who looks like an ideal backup — no better, no worse.

The Vikings also need to get better defensively, and Frazier — despite his defensive background — never solved that problem. One of Zimmer's hallmarks in Cincinnati was building a strong defense and getting the most out of his talented players, despite some character concerns.

Zimmer is tight with Bengals linebackers coach Paul Guenther, and he could be brought in to be the defensive coordinator, according to at least one report.

Zimmer is the first head coach hired this offseason without prior head-coaching experience — if you count Zimmer's fellow Bengals coach, Jay Gruden, who was a head coach in the Arena League. There remains only one head-coaching vacancy currently: that of the Cleveland Browns. But rest assured, concerned Browns fans: They got it under control.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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