EAGAN, Minn. — Mike Zimmer and Dom Capers have admired each other's careers from afar for decades.
The mutual respect between two defensive gurus who rose through the ranks as defensive backs coaches has led to Capers' hire this week as a senior defensive assistant.
Zimmer, 63, and Capers, 69, also have the distinction of having been copied across the NFL, notably Zimmer's double A-gap blitz and Capers' zone-blitz scheme that was deployed in Pittsburgh.
Together, however, they will work to find new ways to affect defenses, along with Co-Defensive Coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer.
Mike Zimmer said during a conference call Tuesday morning that Capers has "always had really good ideas in the pressure game defensively."
"I just wanted another idea-guy, really, someone to come in and have a better way of doing things than we've done it in the past … or at least someone able to say, 'Have you thought about doing it this way or that way?' Then we all sit in a room and figure out how we want to do things," Zimmer added. "I just think with the experience he has and the number of things he's done in his career — basically doing a lot of the same things in Jacksonville [last season] that he'll be doing here."
Capers told members of the media Tuesday that he was surprised when Zimmer called with the job offer.
"I was excited about it because I've got such respect for Mike and what he's been able to do here with this defense, not only here, but in Cincinnati … and with Dallas," Capers said. "There's a reason why every place he's been they've had outstanding defenses over the years.
"This league is such a copycat league that when somebody does something and does it well, you're going to see other people study that, and there normally aren't a lot of secrets because we study each other so much," Capers continued. "Mike's always been ahead of the game and does a lot of things that are very innovative."
A year ago, Zimmer hired Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach/senior offensive advisor. Zimmer sang the praises of that decision in November.
On Tuesday, Zimmer explained that before the 2019 season ended, he had written that he wanted to "get another defensive guy in there that has a background with a lot of different things."
Zimmer said Capers' role will be "similar" to the role that Kubiak held in 2019.
"Gary probably had a little more [influence] on terminology and things like that," Zimmer said. "We won't change defensive terminology. His role will me more of, like I said before, kind of an overseer … an idea person … 'Maybe the corners should play this way, or maybe we should play the defensive line a little differently?' Just things like that, really.
"We've been running this defense for a long, long, long time, and I just thought it would good to get some new, fresh ideas," Zimmer added.
Capers is joining the Vikings after spending 2019 with the Jaguars in a similar role. Prior to that, he was defensive coordinator for the Packers from 2009-17.
View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.
He also was a defensive coordinator of the Dolphins (in 2007), Jaguars (1999-2000) and Steelers (1992-94) and the first head coach in the history of two expansion teams: Panthers (1995-98) and Texans, where he started in 2001 ahead of Houston's inaugural 2002 campaign.
"There's some things he's done that have intrigued me that I'd like to know more about, but it's more about having another set of eyes in [the meeting room]," Zimmer said. "You see things and also being able to say, 'We used to run this pressure, what do you think about this?' Or, as we're putting the defensive package together, being able to discuss different things and go from there."
Capers has stacked considerable success from a 3-4 alignment of the front seven defenders; Zimmer and the Vikings have operated mostly from a 4-3 front.
"The biggest thing in this league is figuring out who your best players are and then adapting what you're doing to fit the players," said Capers, adding that there's "carryover between both schemes."
While Capers' role will continue to be defined as the offseason progresses, the goal is to continue to find "the next edge" to counteract the increased understanding of/exposure to/time spent practicing against time-tested schemes and find "the next edge."
"I'm a big believer that you win and try to get a feel for the situation and figure out how you can contribute the most," Capers said. "We all know to have a good team, everybody has to have their role and they've got to trust everybody else to do their role and figure out how you can contribute the most."