NFC South: Mike Zimmer

Bucs have to get back to searching

January, 23, 2012
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Oregon coach Chip Kelly reportedly backed out just as it appeared he was about to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Kelly reportedly had been in the final stages of negotiating a deal with Tampa Bay. But general manager Mark Dominik said Monday morning that Kelly informed the Bucs he’ll be staying at Oregon.

So where does that leave Tampa Bay’s coaching search?

Well, Kelly may have been the first choice, but the cupboard is far from empty. Of the candidates known to have interviewed, only Joe Philbin, now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, is officially out of the picture.

Former NFL head coaches Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer and Brad Childress already have interviewed. So have NFL assistants Tom Clements, Mike Zimmer, Jerry Gray and Rob Chudzinski.

The Bucs could turn to one of them. The Bucs also could seek to talk to other NFL assistants. Or they may have another surprise candidate like Kelly. It hadn’t been reported that Kelly was even on Tampa Bay’s radar until Sunday night, when he appeared close to a deal. It turned out the Bucs quietly had interviewed Kelly last week.
Scratch Joe Philbin off the list of candidates to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He reportedly is headed to the Miami Dolphins.

I don’t think that’s left the Bucs suddenly hopeless. As I mentioned Thursday, I had Philbin at No. 7 on my rankings of the eight candidates known to have interviewed for the Tampa Bay job. Yes, the Bucs interviewed Philbin and may have liked him, but I don’t think he was all that high on their list.

As we’ve mentioned many times, the other known candidates are Mike Sherman, Mike Zimmer, Tom Clements, Marty Schottenheimer, Jerry Gray, Brad Childress and Rob Chudzinski. In fact, I don’t think a sudden exit by any of those candidates would shatter Tampa Bay’s plans.

I believe the Bucs think several of the candidates could be good fits for their job and are just trying to figure out who they think is the right guy. I also think it’s entirely possible Tampa Bay’s list could grow after this weekend’s championship games.

There’s a school of thought out there that the Bucs could be waiting to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs also want to interview another candidate or two that’s been tied up with the postseason.

The only way this development hurts Tampa Bay is that Philbin will start hiring his staff for the Dolphins. That will narrow the pool of assistants available to the Bucs whenever they do hire a head coach.
Mike ShermanAP Photo/Tony GutierrezMike Sherman is the opposite of Raheem Morris, and that may make him Tampa's top target.

All indications are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t ready to end their search for a head coach. Monday will mark the three-week anniversary of Raheem Morris’ firing.

Since then, the Bucs seemingly have been talking to anyone (almost everyone), but don’t appear close to making a hire. They could be waiting to talk to more coaches that are still involved in the postseason. Or they soon could be narrowing their lengthy list and bringing a few candidates back for second interviews.

What we do know is that by the end of this week the Bucs will have interviewed at least eight candidates. We don’t know exactly how those candidates stack up in the team’s eyes.

But I’m going to give you my rankings of the candidates that are known to have interviewed or are expected to interview by the end of the week. I'm factoring in some insight on what it appears the Bucs are looking for in an ideal candidate. I’ve also talked to coaches and front-office types who have worked with some of the candidates as well as media members who have covered them.

So let’s take a look at my list:

1. Mike Sherman. Even before Morris was fired, Sherman’s name was tied to this job. Part of it was due to the fact Sherman uses the same agent as general manager Mark Dominik, who undoubtedly is going to have a big say in this hire. The Bucs want a cohesive relationship between their front office and the coaching staff and all indications are Sherman and Dominik would work well together.

But there are more reasons why Sherman remains No. 1 on my list. The first is that he’s almost exactly the opposite of Morris in just about every way and that appears to be what the Bucs want. Sherman is 57 with lots of experience. Although his most recent job was a lackluster tenure at Texas A&M, he has been an NFL head coach before. A lot of people tend to forget Sherman’s time in Green Bay was pretty productive.

He produced a winning record in five of his six seasons. He comes from an offensive background and I think that scores points with the Bucs. Tampa Bay needs quarterback Josh Freeman, who it wants to be the foundation of the franchise, back on track after a disappointing 2011 season.

Also, there’s the fact that Sherman is a strong disciplinarian, another thing Morris was not.

[+] EnlargeMike Zimmer
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREMike Zimmer has an impressive defensive coaching background in the NFL, but is that what the Bucs are looking for?
2. Mike Zimmer. Like Sherman, Zimmer is mature and would clean up the lack of discipline and accountability that plagued the Bucs under Morris. Zimmer hasn’t been a head coach, but he’s got a long résumé as a defensive coordinator -- he's currently working in Cincinnati with stints in Atlanta and Dallas before that. Zimmer is universally respected in league circles and the only potential knock against him for this job might be that he doesn’t come with an offensive background.

But Zimmer could end up with this job if he can convince the Bucs he can bring in a strong offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

3. Tom Clements. He’s 58 and has never been an NFL head coach and only did a two-year stint as a coordinator in Buffalo, but he still has pretty strong credentials. He’s been the quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers for six seasons and you could say that coaching Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers is a lot like being the Maytag repairman. But those who know him well say Clements is a big part of the reason the Packers made such a strong transition from Favre to Rodgers.

Prior to joining Green Bay, Clements was quarterbacks coach in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and New Orleans. He also played quarterback at Notre Dame (back when the Notre Dame quarterback pedigree meant a lot) and was a Hall of Fame player in the Canadian Football League.

Clements, who also is an attorney, is known for his no-nonsense approach.

4. Marty Schottenheimer. If you based it only on experience, which obviously is a big factor, Schottenheimer would be the hands-down choice. He spent 26 years as an NFL head coach, with stints with the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers. Schottenheimer’s career record is 327-200, which almost makes it easy to overlook his 5-13 postseason record. Freeman potentially could be better than any quarterback Schottenheimer ever worked with (and that includes Drew Brees only as he was in San Diego, not after he got to New Orleans).

But Schottenheimer is the one candidate who age could work against. He’s 68 and hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2006. He’s been a successful builder before, but can he do it again at this age?

5. Rob Chudzinski. At 43, he’s the youngest of the known candidates. He had a two-year stint as offensive coordinator in Cleveland and helped Derek Anderson (yes, that Derek Anderson) get to a Pro Bowl. But Chudzinsk’s a hot name right now almost entirely because of his work in his first season in Carolina.

Without an offseason program, he installed an entirely new offense and rookie quarterback Cam Newton had a record-setting season. If Chudzinski did that for Newton, the Bucs have to be imagining what he could do with Freeman. But Chudzinski also would have to convince the Bucs he could bring them a proven defensive coordinator.

6. Jerry Gray. He currently is the defensive coordinator in Tennessee and had a pretty successful run as coordinator in Buffalo when Gregg Williams was the head coach. Williams also has a strong background as a secondary coach.

Gray also had a good NFL career as a defensive back and finished his playing career with the Bucs in 1993. The fact that he’s a former player helps his candidacy because he can relate to players. But the fact that he is 49, means that unlike Morris, he would not be a contemporary to the players.

7. Joe Philbin. The offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, Philbin already has had a second interview for the job as Miami’s head coach. Philbin has led a very good Green Bay offense since becoming coordinator in 2007. But head coach Mike McCarthy has handled play-calling duties. Although Philbin had 19 years of experience in the college ranks, the Packers are the only NFL team he has worked for. His rise has been pretty rapid. Philbin joined the Packers (then coached by Sherman) in 2003 as an assistant offensive line coach and became tight ends coach the next year. He later became offensive line coach for one season before becoming coordinator.

8. Brad Childress. Yes, Childress had some success as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He had a winning record in two of his five seasons, but his tenure was marked by inconsistency and turbulence, including the fiasco in which Randy Moss returned to the Vikings. Some who have covered Childress say stability isn’t necessarily his biggest strength. In Minnesota, he seemed prone to go with the quick fix, bringing in Favre and begging him to stay for a second season. That’s the kind of approach that could remind the Bucs, who are going to remain committed to building through the draft, a little too much of the Jon Gruden era, in which there never seemed to be a long-term plan.

Before joining the Vikings, Childress was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. But head coach Andy Reid called the plays. I do think there’s a chance Childress could be hired by Tampa Bay, but as the offensive coordinator for one of the other candidates.

Are Buccaneers going for the record?

January, 17, 2012
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I’m just looking at the latest on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching search and starting to wonder if the Bucs are trying to set some sort of record.

The latest is the Bucs will interview Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and quarterbacks Tom Clements at some point soon. The Bucs are interviewing Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzkinski on Tuesday.

The Bucs previously interviewed former NFL head coaches Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer and Brad Childress as well as Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.

Check my math here, but assuming the Bucs do interview Clements and Philbin, that will bring the number of interviews to eight. And that also is assuming the media as reported every coach who has interviewed. We chase these things like crazy, but sometimes an interview or two can slip through the cracks. The Bucs also could decide to interview more candidates that are still involved in the playoffs. There’s been some speculation about New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell possibly being a candidate.

But, for now, the number will stand at eight, probably later this week. I seriously think that might be some kind of record. ESPN Stats & Information does a wonderful job, but does not keep numbers on how many candidates have interviewed for any given job throughout history.

I’ve been through a few coaching searches in my day. Generally speaking, most teams interview three or four candidates and I think five is the highest number I’ve ever seen.

But I’m not seeing any huge drawback with Tampa Bay’s methodical approach. Indications are, the Bucs could narrow their list and bring back a few candidates for second interviews. That makes it sound like we might not see a hire for at least another week.

Assistant coaches are being hired all over the league and the Bucs may be missing out on some good candidates. But there still are lots of other assistants available. The East-West Shrine Game is this week and the Senior Bowl is next week.

Ideally, you’d like to have your full coaching staff in place for those two events, so the coaches can get a good look at the college prospects. But any assistant that’s available will be at the Senior Bowl and will be watching players on their own.

Besides, the coaching staffs aren’t the ones who do the bulk of the work at the college all-star games. The scouting staff does that.

Yeah, there comes a point when coaches need to start evaluating the current roster and getting ready for free agency. But, as long as Tampa Bay has its staff in place by the end of the month, there’s plenty of time for that.

I know a lot of Tampa Bay fans are looking at the candidates and saying there’s no one with a “wow factor." That’s true, but was there anybody with a “wow factor’’ out there to begin with? Maybe Jeff Fisher, who ended up in St. Louis. But Fisher is a good, but not tremendous coach and his stock was elevated in a year when Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and a few other big names refused to join the league-wide candidate pool.

The Bucs aren’t going for the “wow factor" and there’s nothing wrong with that. The deliberate approach might be the right thing. Maybe the Bucs will get a coach who is the right fit. Then, two years down the road or so, maybe fans will say “wow’’ at what that guy has done.

Around the NFC South

January, 17, 2012
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Time for a Tuesday morning look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

— A lot of Carolina fans are asking why the Panthers simply don’t block offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski from interviewing for the head coach job in Tampa Bay. Joe Person reports the Panthers aren’t allowed to stop Chudzinski from taking a step up. The team also could offer Chudzinski more money to stay, the way Wade Phillips did in Houston. But Chudzinski’s a young guy who wants to explore opportunities as a head coach. If he ends up staying, he probably will get a nice raise. By the way, Chudzinski is interviewing with the Bucs today. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was supposed to interview Monday. But Zimmer encountered some travel issues and he also will interview with the Bucs today.

— Former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress said he has yet to hear back from the Bucs after interviewing for their job. Childress said the team told him the search would take some time. He also said he wouldn’t be opposed to coming to Tampa Bay as an offensive coordinator, if another candidate is hired.

The Bucs also are expected to interview Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements later this week. There also have been reports the Bucs have asked for permission to interview Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

— John DeShazier points out the Saints would have ended up hosting the NFC Championship Game if they had won in San Francisco. They would have hosted the New York Giants, who upset Green Bay. The Saints beat the Giants at home in the regular season. I’m sure everyone who works for the Saints — and all of their fans — are wondering what could have been if the Saints played the NFC Championship Game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. By the way, coach Sean Payton is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans media later Tuesday to review the season.

— Atlanta fans continue to be shocked at the hiring of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator. One of their main gripes is the Falcons didn’t even go through the process of interviewing other candidates. We don’t know for sure that’s true. The media doesn’t always get every interview. Besides, coach Mike Smith knew for a good month that former coordinator Mike Mularkey probably would end up as the head coach in Jacksonville. Smith had plenty of time to think about a replacement and he has history with Koetter.
I know there’s a lot of frustration out there among Tampa Bay fans because the Buccaneers have yet to hire a head coach.

They fired Raheem Morris two weeks ago. Since then, we know they reportedly have interviewed Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer, Brad Childress and Jerry Gray. They’re interviewing Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Monday and Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will interview Tuesday.

That means, that once Chudzinski finishes, the Bucs will have interviewed at least six candidates.

But that doesn’t mean a final decision is coming Tuesday. The Bucs could choose to interview more candidates. They also could narrow the list and bring two or three candidates back for second interviews.

I know it’s tough for fans to be patient, but this shouldn’t come as any big surprise. On the day Raheem Morris was fired, Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer made it very clear the search for a replacement would be “exhaustive’’ and “thorough.’’

While it might be painful to wait, this approach might not be a bad thing. Although Zimmer is a candidate for the Miami job, none of the other candidates appear to be up for any other jobs as head coaches.

That means the Bucs don’t have to rush into anything. It also might be a sign the Bucs have learned from past mistakes. Everything about this search indicates they want to go in the opposite direction of Morris, who was the league’s youngest coach when he was hired in 2009. The fact that the search is taking a lot of time is another example of the Bucs doing things differently than they had in the past.

In 2009, the Bucs didn’t even do a coaching search. They fired Jon Gruden and turned right around and asked Morris if he wanted the job. When Morris accepted, the search was over.

Given how Morris’ tenure played out, the Bucs might be wise in being “exhaustive’’ and “thorough.’’

Around the NFC South

January, 14, 2012
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As we get ready for Saturday afternoon's playoff game between the Saints and 49ers, let's take a look at the headlines from around the NFC South.
  • The Saints have been letting their first-team offense get a little work against their first-team defense. That’s pretty rare during the regular season as first teams generally work against scout teams. But this is a way to keep things interesting and competitive for the starters.
  • The Saints have not won a road playoff game in franchise history. They’ll try to break the streak Saturday afternoon in San Francisco.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter has a list of Atlanta’s possible candidates for their open offensive coordinator spots. He also has a list of potential candidates for the defensive coordinator job.
  • The Panthers reportedly have parted ways with secondary coach Ron Meeks.
  • Brian J. Barker has joined the Falcons as a limited partner. Arthur Blank still owns more than 90 percent of the team.
  • Carolina receiver Steve Smith said he hopes to play four more years. Smith will turn 33 in May, but he has yet to show any signs of slowing down.
  • Cincinnati safety Chris Crocker said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is sometimes harsh with players. That should score Zimmer points as he interviews to be head coach in Tampa Bay. The major criticism on former Bucs coach Raheem Morris was that he was too easy on his players.

Add Rob Chudzinski to Bucs' list

January, 13, 2012
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As we mentioned earlier, Tampa Bay’s list of candidates for head coach goes beyond the guys they already have interviewed.

They now reportedly have asked for and received permission to speak with Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. That comes shortly after a report that they’ve received permission to speak with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

The candidates Tampa Bay is known to already have interviewed are Mike Sherman, Brad Childress, Marty Schottenheimer and Jerry Gray.

Chudzinski represents a bit of a departure from the rest of Tampa Bay’s known list. Chudzinski is just 43. He had a two-year stint as a coordinator in Cleveland and joined the Panthers this year, but most of his experience was as a tight ends coach. Sherman, Childress and Schottenheimer are former NFL head coaches and all are over 50 years old. Gray is 49 and hasn’t been a head coach, but has plenty of experience as a coordinator.

But it’s logical the Bucs would want to talk to Chudzinski, who interviewed for the Jacksonville job. Chudzinski joined Carolina soon after coach Ron Rivera was hired last year and quickly installed an offense similar to San Diego’s.

With rookie quarterback Cam Newton, the offense quickly became one of the most prolific in the league. Chudzinski previously was tight ends coach in San Diego. He also spent time as an assistant in Cleveland. Before that, Chudzinski was best known as the tight ends coach at the University of Miami, where he worked with Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow and Carolina’s Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.

Chudzinski's success with Newton suggests that he could be able to get Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman back on track after a rough 2011 season. That's going to be a priority for whoever ends up with the Bucs.

Buccaneers to talk to Mike Zimmer

January, 13, 2012
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We’ve got another name in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' search for a head coach. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Buccaneers have received permission from the Cincinnati Bengals to speak to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Since the firing of Raheem Morris, there’s been speculation that Zimmer might be on Tampa Bay’s list. He’s expected to interview soon and, as I wrote earlier, there could be other candidates.

The Bucs already have interviewed former head coaches Mike Sherman, Brad Childress and Marty Schottenheimer and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. They seem to be intent on getting a coach with a lot of experience.

Zimmer fits that profile. He’s been an NFL assistant since 1994 and had stops in Dallas and Atlanta before joining the Bengals in 2008. Zimmer, 55, previously coached on the collegiate level at Missouri, Weber State and Washington State.

NFC South programming notes

January, 9, 2012
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NEWARK, N.J. -- I’m about to fly back home to Tampa to do some quick laundry and start getting ready for a trip to San Francisco to cover the playoff game between the Saints and 49ers on Saturday.

We’ll have lots of preview stuff between now and then and I’ll be checking in once I get back to NFC South Blog headquarters later Monday afternoon.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on Tampa Bay’s coaching search. The Buccaneers are interviewing former Minnesota coach Brad Childress on Monday and also are expected to interview Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips at some point. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer also may be interviewing. The Bucs have said they'll be thorough with their process, so my guess is they'll go through several more interviews before making any decision.

While I’m traveling, please keep checking the headlines section on our main NFL page for any updates on Tampa Bay’s coaching search or any other breaking NFC South news.

Wade Phillips on Bucs' radar

January, 8, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is on the radar for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they search for a head coach, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported.

I’d heard some rumblings on this last week and Phillips was the guy I was referring to Friday when I was talking with ESPN Tampa Bay Radio’s “The Fabulous Sports Babe’’ and said there was one potential candidate who could raise some eyebrows.

That’s because Phillips had seemed to be a forgotten man as people talked about candidates for the Tampa Bay job and other openings around the league. Phillips has had some success as a head coach and has done a remarkable job with Houston’s defense this season.

You could make the case that Phillips is the “hottest’’ name we’ve heard so far in Tampa Bay’s search. We know the Bucs have interviewed Mike Sherman and Jerry Gray. Phillips has had more recent NFL experience and success than Sherman and Gray never has been an NFL head coach.

Mortensen also reported that the Bucs have interest in Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer.

But age could work against Phillips, 64, and Schottenheimer, 68. But the Bucs do appear intent on going in a different direction after firing Raheem's Morris, whose age and maturity became issues as the Bucs went on a 10-game losing streak to end the season.

Mike Zimmer rips Bobby Petrino

October, 20, 2010
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A lot of Atlanta fans, understandably, have forgotten all about the short tenure of coach Bobby Petrino.

But one guy who hasn’t forgotten is Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who was on Petrino’s staff in Atlanta in 2007. Speaking to the Cincinnati media Wednesday, Zimmer ripped Petrino, who left the Falcons to coach at the University of Arkansas.

“When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people’s families and doesn’t have enough guts to finish out the year, I’m not a part of it,” Zimmer said. “And you can put that in the Arkansas News Gazette. I don’t really give a (bleep). He’s a coward, he ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of families, kids, because he didn’t have enough (guts) to stay there and finish the job. And that’s the truth. Most people in football have enough courage about him and enough fight to stick it out and not quit halfway through the year. It’s cowardly.”

Pretty strong stuff and I’m sure it will appear in newspapers in Arkansas and plenty of other places. Zimmer returns to Atlanta on Sunday as the Bengals face the Falcons.

Odds and ends from USF's pro day

March, 30, 2010
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s obvious we can’t be at every pro day around the country. But there was one almost literally in the backyard of NFC South Blog headquarters on Tuesday, so I went and checked it out.

My main purpose was to work ahead on an upcoming column on University of South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul that will come out as we get closer to the draft. But I took down a bunch of observations that I’ll share with you now.

  • Read into this whatever you want, but the three head coaches I spotted out there were Tom Coughlin, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith. Head coaches generally don’t show up to watch potential late-round picks.
  • I didn’t see an NFC South head coaches or general managers out there. But I did see New Orleans defensive line coach Bill Johnson. He helped lead some of the drills. Not sure Pierre-Paul’s going to last anywhere near where New Orleans is scheduled to pick at No. 32. But South Florida had another defensive end, George Selvie, working out and he could be around in the third or fourth round.
  • Speaking of NFC South defensive line coaches in attendance, I also spotted Carolina’s Brian Baker. Carolina doesn’t even have a first-round pick at the moment, so I don’t think Pierre-Paul was the main reason Baker was there. He might have been checking out Selvie.
  • Safety Nate Allen didn’t run the 40-yard dash. He said he passed because he’s not completely healthy. But he did the other drills and said he believes he fared well.
  • Besides the head coaches mentioned above, I saw a few other dignitaries out there – Tampa Bay personnel executive Doug Williams, mega-agent Drew Rosenhaus (he represents Pierre-Paul), new South Florida coach Skip Holtz, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
  • Nice move by South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe to full take part in the workout. Grothe suffered a major knee injury last season. He worked out with a bulky brace on his left knee and his throws didn’t appear all that spectacular. But this was a kid who came in with doubts about his height and arm strength even before the injury. He had nothing to lose by working out. In fact, he probably scored some attitude points just by showing up. Grothe is a long shot to even get to camp with an NFL team and admitted he may have to head to the Canadian Football League. But he’s got a private visit with the Bucs coming up in less than two weeks and the workout might have reminded some teams Grothe is out there.

Zimmer tragedy also impacted Saints

February, 4, 2010
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MIAMI -- Back during the regular season, we all heard a lot about how the Cincinnati Bengals rallied around defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer after his wife Vikki died suddenly in October.

The Bengals weren’t the only NFL team impacted by that tragedy. New Orleans defensive assistant Adam Zimmer is the son of Mike and Vikki. He took a few minutes Thursday to discuss how the Saints’ run to the Super Bowl has helped him deal with the loss.

“Obviously, nothing is ever going to replace mom, but at least something good happened this year,’’ said Zimmer, who works primarily with linebackers and has been with the Saints since 2006. “That helped me put it in the background a little bit. When I’m working, it’s a lot easier to keep my mind off of it. I’m sure after this game, it’ll be a little harder because things will slow down and I’ll have time to think.’’

Zimmer said the Saints have rallied around him with lots of support.

“They’ve helped a lot,’’ Zimmer said. “Scott Shanle’s had me over when we’ve had time off. Mark Simoneau had me over for Christmas dinner and [assistant] Coach [Joe] Vitt had me over for Thanksgiving. They’ve been there for me. All the linebackers showed up for the funeral and that was really important to me when I saw them coming.’’

Zimmer said he and his father also have leaned heavily on each other.

“We call each other every night now,’’ Zimmer said. “He’s texting me all the time now. He hardly ever even used texting before this year, but now he’s texting me all the time. Whenever we need each other or need to talk, we give each other a shout. We’ve always been close, but this has brought us closer.’’

Saints give game ball to Zimmer

October, 18, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- There was one very touching anecdote out of the Saints’ locker room after Sunday’s victory against the Giants.

Coach Sean Payton revealed that a game ball was given to defensive assistant coach Adam Zimmer, who works with the linebackers. His mother, Vikki, passed away Oct. 8. Vicki also was the wife of Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who kept on coaching and inspired the Bengals to their victory last week.

Like father, like son, even in the worst of times.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my mother,’’ middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. “For him to be here and not miss a beat is unbelievable.’’

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