Here are some candidates the Vikings should consider as next defensive coordinator
Minnesota fired Ed Donatell on Thursday after the Vikings’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Giants
In a statement released via Twitter on Thursday afternoon, the Vikings officially moved on from defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
“I informed Ed Donatell we will be going in a different direction at defensive coordinator in 2023,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “While this was a difficult decision because of the tremendous respect I have for Ed as a person and a coach, I believe it is the right move for the future of our football team.”
It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Donatell was in charge of a defense that finished No. 31 in the league and allowed 388.7 yards a game. Only the Detroit Lions were more porous on that side of the ball.
Though it’s not fair to place the blame solely on Donatell — the group of aging players is also very much a problem — someone had to answer for last Sunday’s 31-24 playoff loss to the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The search for a replacement will start immediately. Here are some candidates the Vikings should consider:
This seems like a pipe dream considering Fangio and Donatell have long been attached at the hip. Would he really take a job with the organization that just fired his good friend? Nonetheless, if the Vikings are able to hire Fangio, it would be viewed as a home run. He basically invented the 3-4 defensive scheme the Vikings tried to implement this season.
The most obvious choice might already be in the building as Pettine served as the associate head coach for the Vikings this season. It would be a fairly easy transition, and would help O’Connell salvage some continuity with a familiar face taking over the defense. The only issue is Pettine served as the defensive coordinator of the rival Green Bay Packers from 2018-2020 and wasn’t retained once his contract ran out. Maybe the Vikings don’t want to go the route of a retread.
This makes sense considering Desai interviewed with the Vikings last spring before they hired Donatell as defensive coordinator. Not only did Desai learn from Fangio during his rise up the ranks, he served as the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears after his departure. In other words, Desai understands the ins and outs of the defensive scheme. He was the associate head coach for the Seattle Seahawks this season.
The biggest reason this might not work out is Evero is already getting looks as a head coach. He’s also technically under contract as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, though they’re in the process of hiring a new head coach, and whoever it is might want to bring in his own guy. If available, maybe Evero would be interested in a reunion with O’Connell. They were both on the coaching staff when the Rams won Super Bowl LVI.
It’s not often someone with no coaching experience at the highest level lands a job like this right away. That said, Leonhard is an intriguing candidate because of the success he had with the Wisconsin Badgers at the collegiate level. It also helps his cause that he played in the NFL as a safety. That should make him very relatable to the players he’d be coaching.
Nah. Just kidding. There’s absolutely no chance Zimmer would return to the organization that fired him.
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