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Mike Zimmer’s Vikings could be Andy Dalton’s toughest task as the Cowboys QB

Mike Zimmer ahs many ties to the Cowboys of the past, and this year’s edition.

Cincinnati Bengals v St. Louis Rams Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There is constant movement throughout the National Football League, a reality that is true on all levels. Every year we see so much turnover as far as players, coaches, scouts, and a number of other roles, and whenever someone gets an opportunity to see their former employer, you occasionally hear about a “revenge game”-type performance.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t outright committed to a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, but Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones both have to a degree, and it seems as if Andy Dalton will be under center after returning from a concussion and time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Dalton’s more obvious “revenge game” opportunity will be in a couple of weeks when the Cowboys visit the Cincinnati Bengals (a week after Dez Bryant might have one of his own when the Baltimore Ravens host Dallas), but there is an inkling of that narrative for this game should Dalton be the starting quarterback, and it involves the other head coach in the game.

Mike Zimmer knows Andy Dalton better than a lot of other coaches

The Cowboys will face a former assistant coach of their own on Sunday, as if this game was lacking revenge-type angles, when Mike Zimmer leads his Vikings against them, but they’ve already squared off against him as a head coach. Been there and done that.

Where this game is a bit interesting is in the quarterback leading Zimmer’s old team, and it’s one who led one of his old teams as well. If you’re lost by that statement remember that Zimmer and Andy Dalton spent three years going against one another in practice with the Cincinnati Bengals when Dalton was the quarterback and Zimmer the defensive coordinator. That’s a lot of daily battles, and they were apparently quite tough for Dalton. From our friends at Cincy Jungle back in May of 2012:

One of the perks of having a talented team coupled with a talented coaching staff is being able to go against some of the league’s best day in and day out. In the last two weeks’ OTA sessions, Dalton is getting all that he can handle from defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and his defensive unit. According to Paul Dehner, Jr. of CBSSports, Zimmer threw everything but the kitchen sink at Dalton in practices, which usually is a stark contrast to what teams attempt to do in these early OTA sessions.

The neat thing about Zimmer employing this coaching technique is that it not only gives him an idea as to which defensive players are up to the challenge of digesting complicated schemes, but it also gives the offense some experience against multiple formations. In a division that pits the Bengals against two defensive juggernauts in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, this is a great learning experience for the second-year quarterback. The Browns defense may not be as complex at the Ravens’ or Steelers’, but they are nothing to scoff at either, as they finished 2011 with a top-ten overall ranking.

It is worth mentioning that these were the OTAs following Dalton’s rookie season in the NFL, so baptizing him further into the league is obviously something that the Cincinnati staff wanted to do. Not to put too much stock into this idea as a whole, but there are likely few defensive coordinators or defensive head coaches in the league today that know Dalton’s capabilities better than Zimmer does.

Not to focus too much on an incredibly small sample size, but all of this played very poorly for Dalton in his lone matchup against Zimmer as the Minnesota Vikings head coach. The Bengals visited Minnesota in December of 2017 and things did not go great at all for the current Cowboys quarterback. He finished 11 of 22 for 133 passing yards with two interceptions and was actually pulled in favor of his backup A.J. McCarron due to how much of a blowout it was.

One game three years ago hardly means that Mike Zimmer will always get the better of Andy Dalton, but the Vikings currently have the 10th-best defensive by DVOA so the waters are likely going to be a bit rough for Dalton.

Perhaps Dalton will even the score with Mike Zimmer on Sunday afternoon or maybe the Cowboys will lose their fifth game in a row. This season has been one of great unknown and mystery and with Mike McCarthy’s teams being 9-4 in games out of the bye something has got to give in one direction.