Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and the late Greg Knapp have been selected as the 2022 Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award winners by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Frazier and Knapp are the 19th and 20th 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 2022 nominees for the Dr. Z Award were longtime Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach/defensive coordinator Keith Butler, the late defensive line coach Bobb McKittrick and the late defensive coordinator Floyd Peters.
Frazier is in his 24th season as a coach in the NFL in 2022, and his sixth with Buffalo as defensive coordinator. He also has been the Bills’ assistant head coach since 2020. In 2021, Buffalo had the NFL’s number one total defense in yards allowed and the number one scoring defense, and in 2020, the Bills’ defense was third in total takeaways. Frazier’s Buffalo defenses have been ranked in the NFL’s top five in total defense yards in three of the last four seasons.
After a six-season NFL playing career in which he was a part of the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, Frazier made college coaching stops at Trinity International (head coach) and Illinois. His first NFL assignment was as the defensive backs coach for Philadelphia (1999-2002), and he moved on to Cincinnati (2003-04) as defensive coordinator. Frazier spent two seasons with Indianapolis as a defensive assistant (2005) and assistant to the head coach/defensive backs coach (2006).
Frazier joined Minnesota as defensive coordinator in 2007, and he added assistant head coach duties from 2008-10. He was made the Vikings interim head coach for the final six games of 2010 and was Minnesota’s head coach from 2011-13. He served as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator for two seasons (2014-15) and moved to Baltimore as the Ravens’ secondary coach in 2016 before joining the Bills in 2017. He has coached in one Super Bowl with the winning Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Knapp had just started his 26th season as an NFL assistant coach when he was killed in a bicycle accident in July 2021 after he had joined the New York Jets as passing game coordinator.
After a four-year playing career at Sacramento State, Knapp worked nine years (1986-94) at his alma mater as an assistant coach, and he was in multiple NFL training camps as a player and a coaching intern, including Kansas City (1986), Los Angeles Raiders (1987-90) and San Francisco (1992-94), all while coaching at Sac State. He was hired by the 49ers in 1995, and he was San Francisco’s offensive quality control coach (1995-97), quarterbacks coach (1998-2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-03).
Knapp was offensive coordinator for Atlanta (2004-06), Oakland (2007-08) and Seattle (2009). He was the quarterbacks coach in Houston in 2010-11, and he returned to the Raiders as offensive coordinator in 2012. He joined Denver in 2013 as quarterbacks coach, and he added passing game coordinator duties from 2014-16. He rejoined Atlanta as quarterbacks coach (2018-20), before he was hired by the Jets.
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 59th season in 2022, 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 Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, USA Today’s Mike Jones, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold 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; 2022 – Leslie Frazier and Greg Knapp