Las Vegas Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and San Francisco 49ers running backs coach Bobby Turner have been selected as the 2021 Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award winners by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Marinelli and Turner are the 17th and 18th recipients of the Dr. Z Award, which was instituted by the PFWA in 2014.
The Dr. Z Award is given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL. The award is named for Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer. His impact on the writing and football industries was profound. Zimmerman is widely considered one of the best football writers of all time, and his 1970 “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” and revised 1984 “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” are textbooks to this day for young football writers trying to learn the game and trying to learn to write about the game. He started to cover the NFL in 1966, and he started at Sports Illustrated in 1979. Zimmerman stayed at SI until his writing career was cut short by a series of strokes in November 2008. He served as PFWA president during the 1982 season.
Other 2021 nominees for the Dr. Z Award were the late defensive line coach Bobb McKittrick, the late defensive coordinator Floyd Peters and the late defensive line coach John Teerlinck.
Marinelli is entering his 26th season as an NFL coach, and his second as the defensive line coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. He previously spent seven years (2013-19) with the Dallas Cowboys as defensive coordinator (promoted in 2014) and defensive line coach.
He entered the NFL as a defensive line coach, and later assistant head coach, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2005). After three seasons as the Detroit Lions head coach (2006-08), he was the Chicago Bears assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2009, and he was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (2010-12).
A premier defensive line coach, the Buccaneers led the NFL in overall sacks during his tenure there, and the Bears led the league in interceptions (24) and takeaways (44) in 2012. In Dallas, the Cowboys defense improved each year, including a jump from 32nd to 19th in 2014, when Dallas went 12-4, and finishes of eighth (2017) and seventh (2018). Marinelli has coached in one Super Bowl (XXXVII) with Tampa Bay, when the Buccaneers dominated Oakland for the title.
Turner is in his 26th season as an NFL assistant coach in 2021, and his fifth as San Francisco’s running backs coach. Turner is responsible for overseeing three of the top nine rookie rushing seasons in the NFL since 1970 with Alfred Morris, Clinton Portis and Mike Anderson. He also served as running backs coach with Atlanta (2015-16), Washington (2010-14) and Denver (1995-2009).
In Denver, he worked with top-shelf Broncos backs including Terrell Davis, Anderson, Olandis Gary, Portis, among others, as the franchise was in the NFL’s top five in rushing during 10 of his 15 seasons there. He has coached in four Super Bowls with three different franchises (XXXII, XXXIII with Denver, LI with Atlanta and LIV with San Francisco) and has a pair of victories with the Broncos.
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 58th season in 2021, the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams daily. Lindsay Jones of The Athletic is the PFWA president for the 2021-22 seasons and the organization’s 30th president. Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News is the second vice-president and Mike Sando of The Athletic is the secretary-treasurer. At-large board members include USA Today’s Mike Jones, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, The Athletic’s Dan Pompei and ProFootballTalk.com’s Charean Williams. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
PAUL “DR. Z” ZIMMERMAN AWARD WINNERS (For lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL): 2014 – Jim Johnson, Howard Mudd, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese; 2015 – Dick LeBeau, Tom Moore and Dante Scarnecchia; 2016 – Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips; 2017 – Bud Carson; 2018 – Joe Bugel and Emmitt Thomas; 2019 – Gunther Cunningham and Mike Westhoff; 2020 – Bill Arnsparger and Romeo Crennel; 2021 – Rod Marinelli and Bobby Turner