The interview that nearly ended Mike Zimmer’s head-coaching dream
Zimmer started the interview with the AFC team’s four decision-makers, and over the course of five hours he came across as smart, experienced and likable. He wanted to draft and develop a quarterback, planned to have one of the league’s most ferocious and unpredictable defenses. After a few hours they took a break. “That was way better,” the former executive recently recalled thinking, “than what we thought.”
When they resumed, someone lobbed the question toward Zimmer. It seemed easy enough: If you get the job, who do you have in mind for the coaching staff?
Zimmer wouldn’t answer the question. He said he hadn’t thought about it. They pressed him. Still nothing.
Fine, the former executive said they allowed, how about a window into his philosophy — just something to indicate how he’d run their team and build his staff.
Nope, the personnel man would remember; Zimmer wouldn’t go there. He just kept saying he’d figure it out.
“What does that tell us?” the former executive recalled thinking. “It was just kind of unsettling.”
Zimmer finished the interview and headed back to Cincinnati. The four men gathered, and it didn’t take long before the exchange about his staff came up. Had Zimmer truly not thought about who he might hire, or even what kind of coaches he might target? Was he being evasive, potentially fearful of giving the wrong answer?
The men in that room couldn’t get past it. It left a sour taste that no amount of experience or leadership could wash away. Within a few hours, the team had eliminated Zimmer from consideration. “I don’t know how you get over that,” the former executive said. “To this day, I really don’t know why he wouldn’t” answer the question.