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Offseason | 2024

Mike Zimmer prefaces 2024 plan for Micah Parsons


FRISCO, Texas — Mike Zimmer hasn't simply coached for the Dallas Cowboys in his past, but he's been key in helping to develop talent that went on to be not simply notable but, in some occasions, eventual inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a list that includes players like Charles Haley, Deion Sanders and DeMarcus Ware, to name a few, and that's the trajectory Micah Parsons is currently on himself.

So as the three-time All-Pro linebacker prepares to learn from Zimmer, they'll do so with a lot on the line for all involved in 2024. But before Zimmer can get cooking with Parsons, a plan for what the generational pass rusher has to be put in place.

Will Parsons be a defensive end going forward, an off-ball linebacker, or both?

"Yeah, I mean, obviously he's a terrific player," said Zimmer of the three-time Pro Bowler and former Butkus Award winner. "You watch him on tape and he makes some unbelievably athletic plays. You know, at this point, at the stage right now, I'm trying to figure out, get the coaches in here and then we can sit down. 

"… I think one of the strengths that I've always had is to look at players and kind of have a vision for each player and then try to figure out how we can use them in the best way." 

As it stands, however, the answer is yet to be determined, seeing as Zimmer wants to first have a conversation with Parsons before formulating the blueprint — let alone sharing it with the public (something he may not proactively do anyway, because gamesmanship is a thing).

"One of the things I would hate to do right now is to tell you how I'm thinking about playing him without talking to him and letting him think, 'OK, this is what we're thinking about doing with you, Micah.' 

"I don't think shouldn't tell you guys first before I tell him."

Parsons, who built a very close relationship with Dan Quinn over the course of the past three seasons, and who must now adapt to a new coordinator for the first time in his young NFL career, is admittedly all-in on welcoming Zimmer’s scheme, culture and personality. 

Just know that Zimmer's famed simulated blitzes will play a part in the plan on Parsons, as that seems a foregone conclusion. 

"I think he's had a top defender in each period with the Cowboys, so it's gonna be real exciting," said Parsons ahead of Zimmer's press conference.

What will likely help grease the wheels there is the fact that Ware, whom I mentioned before, has also been a longtime mentor of Parsons since the latter joined the Cowboys by way of a first-round pick in 2021. 

It's likely Ware is already advising Parsons on what Zimmer brings to the table and how to maximize his teachings, creating a leg up this offseason in the coming transition for Parsons.

A hard-nosed, old-school ball coach with the ability to tailor his teaching style to each individual's learning style, the overarching reality will be that Zimmer will command as much respect as he'll demand "discipline" from the defensive locker room — in all facets of the game (penalties, fundamentals, technique, etc.) — lest he be made "grouchy".

But even then, be it in the moment or down the road, players appreciate him for the tough love.

"There's a reputation out there that I'm a jerk or something like that. It is what it is I guess," said a smiling Zimmer. "But you know, since it was announced I was going to be here, I've heard from so many players that played for me. Players here — not just defensive backs — the linebackers and defensive linemen have texted me and said how happy they were for me. 

"I think if I was such a jerk I wouldn't be hearing from those guys."

If Parsons and the rest of his defensive compatriots can acclimate, and quickly, to what Zimmer brings to the table, the Cowboys might find themselves finally getting over their postseason hump.

The glimmering Super Bowl 30 ring on his finger is evidence to that fact.

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