Also a candidate for: Minnesota, Washington, Cleveland, Detroit.
Coley Harvey, ESPN Bengals reporter: “Of Cincinnati’s potentially three soon-to-be departing assistants -- running backs coach Hue Jackson’s name has popped up for possible vacancies, too -- defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer probably stands the best chance of taking a head-coaching job. It would be well-deserved. He has spent the past five years or so as the odd man out when it came to filling spots in the offseason. Every year when the coaching carousel kicks up, his name surfaces as a probable target. But each year, for whatever reason, the teams that bring him in decide to go in different directions. What ought to help Zimmer this time around is that he sported the NFL’s No. 3 total defense and the AFC’s best unit this year. Specifically the group was great in sudden-change possessions, those that come due to offensive turnovers. It seemed like at least once a week the defense was bailing the offense out by holding opposing teams to a field goal or less after starting a sudden-change situation that came with poor field position.
“When it comes to Zimmer’s coaching style, he’s an aggressive, defense-oriented coach who loves to blitz. He’ll bring pressure every third down from the safeties, the corners and the linebackers. He feels his unit thrives when it has offensive lines on its heels, unsure exactly who to block. He also clearly has a knack for being a talent evaluator, taking a chance on players like Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins when few teams would. Atkins was a fifth-round draft pick who went to the Pro Bowl last season. Johnson was labeled a non-finisher coming out of college. In his five years, Johnson has gone from a little-known edge rusher to arguably one of the best in the game. This offseason, he’ll fetch a large pay increase that the Bengals may not be able to afford.
“Zimmer will need two to three years to get his system in place. He can’t end up taking a job in a city with ownership that has a quick trigger. As long as the Titans -- or whichever team lands him -- would be willing to remain patient with him in the short-term, you have to figure the long-term payout will be well worth it.”