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Vikings, Zimmer have 2nd interview

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Minnesota Vikings brought Mike Zimmer to Winter Park on Tuesday to start a scheduled two-day visit. But there was no indication as of Tuesday night that he had been offered the head coaching job.

The Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator became the first candidate to get a second interview for the position that became open when Leslie Frazier was fired Dec. 30. He arrived at Winter Park in the late morning and was scheduled to fly back Wednesday to Cincinnati, although obviously his plans could change.

A source told the Pioneer Press on Monday that if Zimmer was impressive in his second interview, there was a chance the Vikings could abandon their original plan of bringing in two or three finalists for second interviews. As of Tuesday night, no other second interviews were known to have been lined up, including none with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who has been reported likely to be a finalist.

Zimmer was scheduled to meet Tuesday with owner Zygi Wilf and other top Minnesota officials. He interviewed Wednesday in Cincinnati with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

Zimmer, 57, has been an NFL assistant for 20 years, including the past six running Cincinnati’s defense. The Bengals were third in the NFL in total defense this past season.

Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten said an expectation was that Spielman would get back to candidates who already have interviewed by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if candidates other than Zimmer don’t have a better idea until Wednesday where they might stand.

A source said Bowles, who also had interviewed with Cleveland, pulled out of the running for the Cleveland Browns job Tuesday but he still remains interested in the Vikings. Cleveland reportedly is waiting on Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who won’t conduct any interviews until after the season, meaning he might not be available until after the Feb. 2 Super Bowl.

The Vikings and the Browns are the only NFL teams left with openings for a head coach. Detroit filled its job Tuesday by hiring Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who had taken Indianapolis to the Super Bowl after the 2009 season.

Minnesota and Cleveland don’t appear to be going after the same candidates, so the Vikings might no longer have competition for their top choices. But there still is a possible deadline for Minnesota.

Spielman said when Frazier was fired that he wanted to have a new coach in place by the Senior Bowl, which has practices beginning next Monday in Mobile, Ala. If he adheres to that deadline, Minnesota will name a coach this week.

However, there remains a chance the Vikings could wait to make a move until after Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between San Francisco and Seattle and the AFC Championship Game between Denver and New England. Coaches involved in those games known to have interviewed with Minnesota are Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and offensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

Coaches on losing sides Sunday could then interview freely. Coaches on winning sides could talk with teams through Jan. 26 if they already have had a first interview, and then would be off limits until after the Super Bowl.

The Vikings are known to have interviewed seven candidates: Zimmer, Bowles, Bevell, Quinn, Roman, Tomsula and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.