Zimmers savor reunion on Bengals staff


Adam Zimmer

Updated: 7:40 p.m.

When Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer played high school football for his father back in Illinois, the rule was Mike couldn't call him "Dad" on the field, and the unwritten rule was Bill Zimmer was harder on his son than everyone else.

But Adam Zimmer, third generation coach, happily signed on for the same rules Tuesday when he was named the Bengals assistant secondary coach to Mark Carrier for his father's staff.

"I'm not going to be 'Dad' at the office," Mike Zimmer said. "It's going to have to be 'Coach' or 'Zim' or 'Mike,' or whatever he wants. I told him over dinner last night. He'll be treated just like everyone else and I'll probably be harder on him. My dad was harder on me."

The way Adam Zimmer looks at it, he's not working for his father. After serving seven seasons for two teams and winning a Super Bowl, he's finally with the top defensive coordinator in the National Football League.

"I'm looking forward to working for the best in the business," Adam Zimmer said. "I'm sure he's going to be as hard on me as he is on everybody else. To get to work for him and learn from him is something I want to do."

The announcement may mean the club is ready to announce soon that Hue Jackson is moving to running backs coach after a one-year stint as an assistant for special teams and the secondary. Head coach Marvin Lewis may tap someone else on the staff to assist special teams coach Darrin Simmons.

"Adam is a good young coach with two great experiences already in the NFL," Lewis said in a news release. "I'm very confident he will do a fine job."

With three top 10 finishes in five seasons, Mike Zimmer has molded one of the league's most consistent units and now he'll get to do it with the kid that followed him into the family business. Adam, 29, broke into the NFL with Sean Payton's staff in New Orleans immediately after playing two seasons of cornerback and two seasons of safety at Trinity of San Antonio in Texas. His four seasons with the Saints and last three with the Chiefs came as an assistant linebackers coach.

In 2011, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson became the first pair of Chiefs linebackers to make the Pro Bowl since 1972. Adam Zimmer's term in Kansas City ended after this past season with the release of head coach Romeo Crennel and his staff.

"Coaching linebackers, you have to learn the front and the defensive backs," Adam Zimmer said. "I've got a good feel for how defensive backs play. I played DB in college. It is such a passing league, it's a good thing for my future to learn new position groups."

He also says it helps that his dad's specialty is the secondary. Mike Zimmer has no qualms about it. Especially after several players have approached him and told him how good a coach his son is.

After the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Kansas City back in November, Hali did. And when the Bengals beat the Chargers in San Diego a few weeks later, Chargers linebacker Demorrio Williams, who played for the Chiefs the two previous seasons, told him the same thing.

"That's my proudest moment because players don't have to come up to you and say anything," Mike Zimmer said. "You never know if coaches are saying it because I'm his dad. But when players say it, that means something to me and a lot of them have told me the same thing and that makes me proud.

"He's had great experiences working under some excellent defensive coaches. For all of Gregg Williams's (bounty) issues, he's a good coach. And so are (former Chiefs linebackers coach/coordinator) Gary Gibbs and Romeo."

Mike Zimmer says he knows his son didn't get tangled up in the bounty scandal because "he's too conscientious," and instead, Adam Zimmer got rave reviews from the Saints linebackers after the 31-17 victory over the Colts in the Super Bowl following the 2009 season. Studying the dizzying bevy of signals dished out by quarterback Peyton Manning—audible and otherwise—became one of his assignments leading up to the game.

"A lot of it was spot on," Scott Fujita said after the game. "You wonder during the week that you got these code words you hear about other teams from scouting and watching TV copies. But a lot of them were pretty accurate. We came out and we were calling out some of the plays on the field."

Zimmer prepared a tip sheet for his players and Scott Shanle swore by it after the game.

"I got a lot of tips with Peyton Manning's signals," Shanle said. "He talked to some people about the signals. It helped. They started changing them up during the game. The thing Adam did, he breaks it down a lot by sets. Run. Pass. We aligned in a lot of the defenses because of the breakdowns they did."

Both Fujita and Shanle played for the Cowboys in coordinator Mike Zimmer's scheme. And Dallas is where Mike and Adam began literally growing up together in the NFL. During Mike Zimmer's second season in the NFL as the Cowboys secondary coach, 12-year-old Adam held the cord of his dad's headset during Dallas's Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh in January 1996.

Their most poignant reunion also came during a winning Super Bowl, but at the end of the most trying season of their lives. Vikki Zimmer, Mike's wife and Adam's mother, died suddenly in October 2009, and after the Saints linebackers and Payton attended the memorial service in Cincinnati, New Orleans went on to win the Super Bowl with Mike Zimmer watching in the stands with his two daughters.

"It will be good for me; and it will be good for him," Mike Zimmer said of the new arrangement.

Adam may have to call him "Zim," but Mike probably won't take down the pictures in his office of Adam and his two sisters, or Adam and Mike on a hunting trip. Adam makes no bones about modeling his career after Mike. A month before she died, Vikki Zimmer recalled asking her husband, "How honored do you feel that your son wants to be just like you, idolizes you and even has your mannerisms?"

"It will be fun to be around him," said Adam, who spent a lot of his summer vacation watching tape with Mike. "The girls will probably be up for a lot of games now. I haven't had a Christmas with the family since I got into coaching. Maybe that will happen now."

Adam Zimmer had to cope with another tragedy this past season when Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself to death at the facility as he worked in his office.

"It was shocking and a tough thing to deal with," he said. "Something you would never imagine. A normal Saturday morning at the facility turns into that."

It has all made Adam Zimmer older than his 29 years, but he still sounds like the kid who thinks watching tape with his dad is a vacation.

"I've never sat in on his meetings and I'm looking forward to seeing that. The closest I came would be holding the cord (in Dallas)," Adam said. "And I'd like to see what he does from an organizational standpoint."

He's already seen the Bengals secondary at work.

"I taped all their games, but I only watched them if they won," Adam Zimmer said. "They're tough. They cover really well down the field. They look like they cover the deep ball well. Typical Dad-coached defense."

He meant "Zim" or "Mike." But probably "Coach."

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