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Vikings to hire Zimmer as coach

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Vikings to hire Zimmer as coach
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A source confirmed Wednesday morning the Vikings will hire Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the ninth coach in team history.

ESPN first reported the story.

The Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator conducted a second round of interviews Tuesday and Wednesday at Winter Park.

As of 1 p.m., the Vikings had not confirmed Zimmer’s hiring.

“No announcement has been made from the organization,” said a team spokesperson.

Zimmer, 57, has been an NFL assistant for 20 years, including the past six running Cincinnati’s defense. The Bengals ranked third in the NFL in total defense this past season.

Zimmer replaces Leslie Frazier, who was fired Dec. 30.

Zimmer never has been an NFL head coach. None of the head coaches the Vikings have hired in their 53-year history have had NFL head-coaching experience.

Two Vikings players, guard Brandon Fusco and linebacker Audie Cole, said they were excited about their new coach.

Zimmer and the Bengals staff coached the 2011 Senior Bowl team that Fusco played on.

“He’s a really hard-nosed guy. He’s a pretty fired-up guy,” Fusco said. “He loves coaching guys, making them better.”

“Everything I’ve heard about him is positive,” Cole said. “He’ll be a great coach, I’m sure. They interviewed plenty of people, and if they think it’s a great fit, so do we.”

Former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer applauded Zimmer’s hiring, as well. Switzer gave Zimmer his first NFL job as a defensive backs coach in 1994. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl the next season.

“I’m happy for him,” Switzer said. “Every guy wants a head job who has been an assistant coach. He’s been in the league a long time. ... I wish him well. It’ll be fun to watch.”

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said he’s been talking about Zimmer with Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who played under him in 2006. Robison said Hatcher has great respect for Zimmer.

“I think it’s a good hire,” Robison said. “I think he’s a guy that obviously is going to help us win. He’s just a guy who’s very passionate about his job. ... He’s going to yell at you when you need it and praise you when you deserve it.”

The Vikings were known to have interviewed seven candidates. A source told the Pioneer Press on Monday that if Zimmer was impressive in his second interview, there was a chance the Vikings could abandon their original plan of bringing in two or three finalists for second interviews. Zimmer is the only candidate known to have come to Minnesota for a second interview.

The Vikings also interviewed Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and offensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton.