Updated: 7:50 p.m.
Mike Zimmer confirmed Tuesday in a text message he is returning to the Bengals as defensive coordinator and the Bengals made it official later in the day.
Zimmer wouldn't elaboate but it is believed the deal was offered before he left for Dallas on Monday to rejoin his family as well as check up on son Adam's trip to the NFC playoffs as the Saints assistant linebackers coach.
It turns out to be the Bengals' first strike in free agency, less than 72 hours after the Wild Card loss to the Jets, and it may end up to be their biggest heading into 2010. In two years Zimmer has taken the Bengals from 27th in the NFL to fourth with a unit that fueled this past season's six-game sweep of the AFC North in which the Bengals allowed just seven offensive touchdowns.
"I love working with Marvin," Zimmer said in a news release. "He's a great coach who does a terrific job, and he has been like family to me through all the ordeal our family has gone through. And I really respect the group of players we have. They have worked exceptionally hard, and I know they join me in knowing we have to keep improving as we move forward. "
Zimmer's story became a main thread of the Bengals' improbable 10-6 run. Less than 72 hours before the Bengals played in Baltimore, his wife Vikiki died suddenly on Oct. 8. Zimmer decided to coach with his three children and father in the stands, and the Bengals responded with a last-minute 17-14 victory in which they held the NFL's third-ranked offense to one touchdown.
"I don't think anybody could have handled it any better," said Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who has known Zimmer for 30 years. "He had to become both a father and a mother to his kids."
TRIB REPORT: The Chicago Tribune web site reported Tuesday night that the Bears are interviewing long-time Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese for the job of offensive coordinator. The paper said that Zampese signed an extension during the season, which means the Bengals must have given Chicago permission to talk to Zampese.
The Trib said the Packers didn't grant permission to the Bears for their QBs coach, Tom Clements, to interview, and another candidate, Jeremy Bates, went to Seattle.
Zampese, 42, is the only position coach Carson Palmer has had in his seven seasons in the NFL. Zampese worked with Bears head coach Lovie Smith in St. Louis, when Smith was the defensive coordinator and Zampese was a wide receivers coach for two years and an offensive assistant for a year.
THUMBS UP:Speaking of Palmer, it is believed he has already had surgery to repair the injured ligaments in his left thumb that put him in a glove for the last three months of the season. After the surgery by Cincinnati hand specialist Dr. Peter Stern, Palmer is looking at a three-month rehab during which he can still throw. He won't have the glove when he takes the field in May.