There's two mind sets at work after the Bengals officially hired Mike Zimmer to become the team's defensive coordinator. Both of which rely on a history of experience. As a Bengals fan, you just get that feeling that it doesn't matter who the defensive coordinator is, the defense will continue to struggle. Coaches are coaches. Players are players. If the players aren't that good, then the coaches aren't either. If the coaches aren't that good, in some cases, the players can make up the difference or make the coach look better than he really is.
Leslie Frazier was the first Marvin Lewis defensive coordinator. After an unsuccessful run -- and being a scapegoat coordinator -- Frazier went to Indianapolis -- coaching defensive backs -- helping the Colts improve their defensive ranking from 15th in 2005 to 2nd in 2006. He went on to Minnesota as the defensive coordinator and finished with a 20th ranked defense -- first against the rush, dead last against the pass.
Ironically, the Bengals best defensive season in the past five years was Frazier's last season (2004) when the defense was ranked 19th. Chuck Bresnahan didn't fare much better. The defense didn't toughen up. However, they did become an opportunistic defense leading the league with 31 interceptions in 2005 with 30 forced fumbles (6th in NFL). The Bengals frequency of interceptions ranked in the top-eight each of Chuck Bresnahan's three seasons.
I'm not degrading Mike Zimmer one bit. I think it's a good hire. Why? Because of the available candidates available, the Bengals got the most established that would reasonably be in Cincinnati. No chance of Rex Ryan. No chance of Tim Lewis. No consideration for Donnie Henderson.
And Zimmer has produced results with the Cowboys taking younger players and establishing them as stars -- pun intended. It's not that I don't believe Zimmer can do it. That invading thought that no matter who the Bengals hire as defensive coordinator, it won't make a difference. But we'll see. We have all off-season to speculate.
UPDATE: I asked Blogging the Boys senior blogger, Grizz, his thoughts on Zimmer. Good stuff.
Mike Zimmer was a very good defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys for a number of years. Even in the dark days earlier in this decade when we had some pretty crappy teams, there were years were the defense was actually good. And Zimmer didn't lose his job in Dallas from lack of production out of his charges but he ran into a philosophical factor that hastened his departure.
Zimmer runs a 4-3 defense that usually played it safe in Dallas. He wasn't an attacking, blitz-machine coordinator like Jim Johnson in Philadelphia or other high-risk/high-reward coordinators. He believes in guys being in position and making the play. A lot of the time we just didn't have the horses to blitz effectively and cover-up the weaknesses in our secondary so he probably played it more cautious than he might have wanted. During his time here we used a fast, undersized defense - that's pre-Parcells. Our linebackers were some of the smallest in the league before Parcells arrived, but they could run sideline-to-sideline and they could tackle.
He has a fiery style in practice and will get on players when they aren't preforming. His departure was the result of Parcells wanting to implement the 3-4 defense and that turned out to be an issue. In the transition year when we played a lot of 3-4 mixed with some 4-3, Zimmer seemed to struggle with the 3-4 concepts and it was probably a poor match between him and Parcells, who obviously knew what he wanted out of the defense. After that, they parted ways.
Overall, I think Zimmer is a solid coordinator. He's not the flashiest guy in public and his defense is more meat-and-potatoes than sizzle. But I would expect that he'll improve your defense.