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Zimmer has reasons to stay with Bengals

1/6/2014

CINCINNATI -- Get used to seeing tweets like the one below from ESPN Insider Adam Schefter across the next few weeks as Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer becomes one of the most talked about assistants in the NFL.

It isn't shocking news that one day after his current team was bounced from the AFC playoffs, Zimmer already had interviews lined up with other teams for their head-coaching vacancies. After all, he's been here before. More times than he'd care to admit, Zimmer has been invited for similar interviews, participated in them and not gotten the job.

This time around, you have to believe he's going to finally land that ever-elusive top-dog gig.

But what if he gets that job offer and decides to turn it down? Could Zimmer, the leader of the NFL's No. 3 defense in 2013, really stay with the Bengals?

The idea isn't as far-fetched as you might think.

"If I get offered one of these jobs and I don't feel good about it, you know me -- I'm going to do what I think is best," Zimmer said inside an empty Bengals locker room Monday afternoon.

One day after Cincinnati got bounced from the AFC playoffs thanks to a 27-10 loss at home to the San Diego Chargers, Zimmer chatted with reporters about coaching offers, his defense and what his next steps might, or might not, entail.

About an hour before Schefter's tweet, Zimmer said he had fielded "multiple requests" for interviews, although he didn't want to say with which teams. He said he had two interviews in the works for this week, and may have another set for next week.

While he will go on each of the interviews, Zimmer was quick to bring up reasons why he wouldn't be opposed to keeping his spot in Cincinnati's coaching ranks if all else fell through.

It's about happiness.

Finally, Zimmer has hit the sweet spot in his work-personal life balance.

He has a son, Adam, who is on staff with him in Cincinnati. He has a daughter who moved to the area not so long ago. And he has 43 acres of newly-bought land in nearby Independence, Ky., that is waiting for him to plop a house atop it. He already has the plans for the place drawn up; all he needs is for it to be built.

At long last, life outside Paul Brown Stadium is as seemingly close to perfect as it can be for Zimmer.

"So there's a lot of factors," he said, referencing the external forces that could keep him close to Southwest Ohio.

Another reason to stay? "The people in Cincinnati are pretty nice to me," he added before chuckling. "They don't know that I'm a bad coach yet."

Since joining the Bengals in 2008, Zimmer has led his share of top-10 defenses including this year's No. 3 unit and the group that ranked No. 4 in 2009. That same season, he was recognized as the league's top assistant by three publications. He also lost his wife of 27 years, Vikki, in October of that season when she died of natural causes.

Even with that added challenge in his background, Zimmer still consistently led a defense that has earned league-wide respect and admiration.

It also was clear during his 17-minute conversation that Zimmer thinks highly of the men who played for him this season, and the ones he anticipates having back next year if he sticks around with them.

"This team, this defensive team with the pieces we have, if we can keep them going, has a chance to be something really special," Zimmer said. "I know we were good this year, but we have a chance to be something really special."

See? He's still saying "we." Until "we" becomes a team that wears purple and gold or varying shades of blue, then he'll be referring to the Bengals when he utters that word.

While Zimmer has likely seen his last days as an assistant coach in Cincinnati, he still has a few reasons why he may not end up being in such a hurry to leave.