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Offseason | 2024

Zimmer: Players that want to be great, want to be coached


FRISCO, Texas – Tough. Intense. Demanding. Those are the words uttered for the last week by some of his former players and colleagues to describe the coaching style of Mike Zimmer.

But on Wednesday, the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator playfully took it a step further, mentioning words such as "mean" and "jerk" that he's obviously heard over the years, and even some recently since it's been announced that he is now running the Cowboys defense.

"There's a reputation out there that I'm a jerk… it is what it is, I guess," Zimmer said with a smile, admitting there could be some truth in all of the statements, but he's more than appreciative of the support he's received from former players.

"Since it was announced that I'm going to be here, I've heard so many players that played for me," he said. "Players here, not just defensive backs, linebackers and defensive lineman – they've texted me and said how happy they are for me. I think if I was such a jerk, I wouldn't be hearing from those players."

One of those players is former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who has said Zimmer isn’t interested in being friends with the players, but he's going to add some toughness to the defense.

When asked about coaching the newer generation of players, Zimmer said his experience has taught him the great players are willing to take strict coaching in order to reach the next level.

"The ones that want to be great … they want to be coached," Zimmer said. "There's a lot more social media, a lot more outside stuff going on. But the ones that I've been around, the young guys, they want to be coached, they want to study and want to understand how they can get better. They want to know how you can make them better."

Zimmer didn't use a lot of names, although he did reference three players he coached in Cincinnati and Minnesota that went on to play for the Cowboys – Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Pacman Jones – who didn't always like the way he coached them, but now appreciate him and still reach to Zimmer to this day.

"I'm demanding. I try to get the best out of the players," said Zimmer, who said he's adapted to different personalities over the years. "I had one player who was a terrific player and you could not yell at him. You had to put your arm around him. You had to talked to him in a whisper. He didn't like to be reprimanded in front of people. So that's what I did with him and he became a terrific player. Other players you know I'd get after them. Everybody is different. You try to hit the button to make them better. You're not out there to be a mean guy. You're only there to help them."

And "help" is what the Cowboys need on defense, especially after losing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to Washington.

Zimmer said he's not trying to "reinvent the wheel" and admitted the Cowboys have done some great things on defense.

But he's here to add to that, using the only style he knows.

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