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 announced Wednesday night that they had hired Zimmer for their top coaching position.
"I'm extremely excited to bring a championship to the state of Minnesota and to the great fan base of the Vikings," Zimmer said in a video posted on the team's Twitter account. "I can't wait to get to work."
Long after reports first surfaced about the hire, the Vikings remained quiet. 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. Finally, the Vikings made the announcement shortly after 9 p.m. local time. Zimmer will be the ninth coach in the franchise's 54 seasons.
"Fans will appreciate Mike's intensity on the field and his down-to-earth attitude off the field," Vikings owner Mark Wilf said. "We strongly believe he will help us compete for division championships each year and lead us to our ultimate goal of bringing a Super Bowl championship to Minnesota."
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.
"Gonna miss you coach Zimmer! 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!" tweeted linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Zimmer replaces Leslie Frazier, another former Bengals defensive coordinator who was fired Dec. 30 after the team finished 5-10-1 this season.
General manager Rick Spielman interviewed at least seven candidates. He and Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf settled on the one who was widely considered around the league to be the most overdue for a head coaching job. Zimmer has interviewed for several vacancies in recent years, including this month with Tennessee.