When it comes to scheming defense and offense, Sunday's Vikings-Saints game features two of the most respected coaches on either side of the ball. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is in his first season with the Vikings after 20 seasons as an assistant coach, including stints as defensive coordinator in Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is an 18-year NFL veteran who has been in New Orleans since 2006 and presided over the most successful stretch in team history when the Saints posted a 41-14 mark (.759) from 2009-11.
Zimmer has a long history of coaching successful defenses and he's done so while employing a variety of schemes. He has been a part of 11 playoff teams in his NFL tenure and teams that have won seven division titles. While the Bengals Defensive Coordinator (2008-13), Zimmer's defenses have ranked in the NFL's top 10 in total defense four times, climbing to No. 3 in 2013. Also, since 2011, the Bengals ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 139 sacks and allowed just 18.8 points per game, ranking No. 4 in the NFL in points allowed. In fact, Zimmer has coached seven top 5 scoring defenses.
Payton, while a few years less experienced, has also achieved great success while focusing his expertise on offense. In New Orleans, Payton's offenses led the League in net yards per game in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011 and finished No. 1 in scoring in 2008 and 2009.
Both Zimmer and Payton have reached the pinnacle of the NFL, with Zimmer a part of Dallas' victory in Super Bowl XXX as an assistant coach and Payton guiding the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
Another common thread between Zimmer and Payton is that both have coached under Hall of Famer Bill Parcells and both speak fondly of their time with Parcells. Zimmer and Payton were assistants together on Parcells' staff in Dallas from 2003-05. Parcells was Cowboys Head Coach from 2003-06, with Zimmer on staff for the entire tenure and Payton on-hand from 2003-05 before becoming the Saints Head Coach in 2006.
After spending years in the NFL coaching with and against each other as assistants, Zimmer and Payton will compete against one another as head coaches for the first time this Sunday in a game where each team is looking to get back on the winning track.
"Sean and I have always been good friends," Zimmer said. "Our kids were good friends with their kids. Sean's a great football coach and obviously he's done a fantastic job with the Saints. It's always a fun test to go against somebody that you respect."
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