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Chris Tomasson / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published January 13 2014

Former bosses praise Vikings' coaching candidate Zimmer

MINNEAPOLIS – One rap on Leslie Frazier was he was too nice to thrive as an NFL head coach.

It doesn’t sound as if that ever would be an issue with Mike Zimmer.

“He’d be tough,” Barry Switzer said. “He’d be demanding.”

“Zimmer is a great guy, but nice is a word that I wouldn’t describe him with when it comes to football,” added Mike Price.

Zimmer is considered by some to be the favorite to replace the fired Frazier as Vikings coach. The Bengals defensive coordinator, who first interviewed last Wednesday, is expected to have a second interview today in Minnesota, which would include meeting owner Zygi Wilf.

Notable former coaches Switzer and Price both raved about Zimmer in phone interviews Monday. Switzer gave Zimmer his first NFL job. Price hired Zimmer for his first full-time college position.

Switzer, who won three national championships coaching at the University of Oklahoma and a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys, hired Zimmer as a defensive backs coach in 1994. Zimmer remained with the Cowboys for 13 years and with four different head coaches, winning it all under Switzer after the 1995 season.

“He has all those attributes (to be a head coach),” said Switzer, who had Zimmer on his staff for four seasons. “He’s aggressive. He wasn’t bashful or shy with his convictions about what he believed in and he had the ability and the talent to sell it, and in most cases he was right.

“I saw it every day, on the field and in staff meetings. He was totally immersed in football from the beginning and was recognized right away as a top defensive coach. … He had great knowledge and background. Immediately, you knew this guy was a football coach.”

Price, a longtime college coach, who led Washington State to Rose Bowls after the 1997 and 2002 seasons and retired following the 2012 season at Texas El-Paso, hired Zimmer as a Weber State assistant in 1981. Zimmer coached under Price at Weber State for eight years and then with him at Washington State for five more years.

“He was my defensive coordinator (at Washington State), and we led the nation in defense his last year before he went to Dallas,” Price said. “He’s the best defensive coordinator I’ve ever been around or know about.”

When Zimmer was defensive coordinator in 2003, the Cowboys led the NFL in total defense. He’s held that job the past six years in Cincinnati, and is coming off a season in which the Bengals were third in total defense.

But Zimmer, 57, never has been an NFL head coach.

“I can’t believe he’s still available,” Price said. “I thought he would have been a head coach a long time ago. Maybe it’s because he’s honest and blunt and tells the truth. He’s real. He’s not a phony. He’s very well respected in the profession, and he’s really a players’ coach. He’s a strong disciplinarian, but the players just love him.

“I think you would have to be a certain special owner (to hire Zimmer). He’s not a brown-noser. He lets his work stand for him, and his professional demeanor stand for him. He’s not going to be a media darling. He’s a football coach, and he’s a hell of a football coach, and he’s a hell of a person.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service