Zimmer was Petrino’s defensive coordinator in Atlanta when Petrino abruptly resigned 13 games into his career after a 3-10 start to the 2007 season. Bengals fans are forever grateful for the move because Cincinnati was his next stop in 2008 and he led the defense to its highest ranking in three decades last season at No. 4.
But Zimmer is still livid about what went down with the Falcons three years ago.
“When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people’s families and doesn’t have enough guts to finish out the year, I’m not a part of it,” Zimmer said. “And you can put that in the Arkansas News Gazette. I don’t really give a (bleep). He’s a coward, he ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of families, kids, because he didn’t have enough (guts) to stay there and finish the job. And that’s the truth. Most people in football have enough courage about him and enough fight to stick it out and not quit halfway through the year. It’s cowardly.”
Petrino pulled the coaching equivalent of the Baltimore Colts leaving in the middle of the night when he surfaced in Arkansas to take the job about 24 hours after the Falcons appeared on Monday Night Football.
“He came in and said he resigned, (said) he’d talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has talked to him since,” Zimmer said. “Not that anybody wanted to. He’s a gutless (bleep). You can quote that.”
As for those 16 games with the Falcons, a team that ended up being taken over by the dean of the staff, Emmitt Thomas and finished 4-12, Zimmer said, “I was never even there.”
Petrino’s coordinators have overcome him. Zimmer was rewarded the Bengals’ richest deal ever for an assistant coach before this season with an undisclosed three-year extension, and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has the same job in Oakland and is reviving the once-dormant Raiders offense with the NFL’s 10th-ranked running game.