CHICAGO -- Mike Zimmer took the Minnesota Vikings from 7-9 to 11-5 in only two years. Under Zimmer, the Vikings won their final three regular season games in 2015 to clinch the NFC North title -- Minnesota’s first division championship since 2009. For helping the transform the Vikings into legitimate NFC contenders -- they lost a heartbreaker to the Seahawks in the NFC wild-card round of the playoffs on a last-second missed field goal -- Zimmer was voted division coach of the year by ESPN’s NFC North writers.
Zimmer won in a clean sweep, garnering all four first-place votes and doubling the points total of runner-up Mike McCarthy of the Packers. Bears coach John Fox, who finished 6-10 as his former teams (Carolina and Denver) play in Super Bowl 50, finished in third place, two points ahead of his former assistant and current Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. The unorthodox inclusion of an offensive coordinator on this list is a poor reflection on Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell, who was told by Lions ownership he will return in 2016.
Prior to arriving in Minneapolis, Zimmer served as the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, Falcons and Bengals. The Vikings allowed 18.9 points per game in 2015. Zimmer and his staff also deserve credit for developing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, and rushed for three touchdowns in his second NFL season.
Full voting (first-place votes in parentheses):
Mike Zimmer: 12 (4)
Mike McCarthy: 6
John Fox: 4
Jim Bob Cooter: 2