Jones, Parcells convince Zimmer to stay

Updated: January 7, 2004, 11:06 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bill Callahan will talk to Nebraska about the job Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer turned down Tuesday.

Callahan, who was fired by the Raiders last week will interview with the Cornhuskers on Wednesday, his agent, Gary O'Hagan, confirmed Tuesday night.

"It would be a perfect fit," O'Hagan told The Associated Press. "A high-character institution with a high-character coach."

Coach Bill Parcells said Tuesday that Zimmer told Nebraska officials he was remaining in the pros rather than continue to pursue the head coaching vacancy created when Frank Solich was fired after a 9-3 season. Zimmer was in Lincoln, Neb., on Monday for an interview.

Back to square one in Lincoln?
Nebraska has been been on a search for a new football coach since Frank Solich was fired in November after a 9-3 regular season. Interim coach Bo Pelini led the Cornhuskers to victory in the Alamo Bowl and will now be interviewed by AD Steve Pederson, as will quarterbacks coach Turner Gill.

The candidates Nebraska sought but couldn't bring to Lincoln:

  • Mike Zimmer, Cowboys defensive coordinator
    Why he stayed put: Dallas offered a new contract.

  • Houston Nutt, Arkansas coach
    Why he stayed put: Loyalty to the Razorbacks, counteroffer from university.

  • Al Saunders, Chiefs offensive coordinator
    Why he stayed put: Wanted to continue career in NFL; withdrew from consideration.
  • Zimmer, who led the Cowboys to a No. 1 defensive ranking this season, will sign a three-year, $3 million contract to remain in Dallas, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports. The $1.5 million-per-year deal he rejected from the Cornhuskers was for six seasons.

    Zimmer had been scheduled to make $500,000 the next two seasons under a deal he signed with Dallas last year.

    His initial reaction early Tuesday, after sleeping on the Nebraska offer, was to accept the job. But when he reported for work at the Cowboys' headquarters a few hours later, owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells convinced him to stay and presented him with the proposal for the new contract.

    "We found him to be a terrific coach and a man of great integrity," Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson said in a statement Tuesday. "He was very upfront at the time regarding the fact that his first obligation is to the needs and happiness of his family."

    Parcells said Zimmer would not comment.

    Arkansas coach Houston Nutt rejected Nebraska's $2 million coaching offer, saying strong family ties and a job left undone kept him with the Razorbacks. Nebraska also expressed interest in Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, but he also said he didn't want the job.

    Pederson has indicated that interim coach Bo Pelini and quarterbacks coach Turner Gill, a Fort Worth native, also will be interviewed in the search for a replacement for Frank Solich. The Cornhuskers fired Solich in November after a 9-3 regular season.

    Meanwhile, Congressman and former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne has been fielding phone calls from worried assistants at the school he led to two national championships.

    Zimmer has been with the Cowboys for nine seasons. He became defensive coordinator in 2000 and this past season his unit gave up the fewest yards in the NFL. He was an assistant at Illinois State, Missouri, and Weber State before jumping to the pros.

    Although Zimmer has never been a head coach at any level, Parcells has said several times that he would be a good candidate to run an NFL team.

    "I think that the future is bright for Mike," Parcells said Tuesday. "He did an excellent job. If your offense or defense is particularly favorable, people begin to take notice of you. I think that is what happened."

    Parcells said the Cowboys also are close to retaining the only two assistant coaches with expiring contracts, strength coach Joe Juraszek and kicking coordinator Steve Hoffman.