Vikings Fire Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell

Donatell Prediction
Sep 30, 2022; Thundridge, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell during practice at Hanbury Manor. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Vikings have decided to fire Ed Donatell. Kevin O’Connell released a statement that the team’s social media shared:

The succinct notice indicates that it was a difficult decision and that O’Connell’s motivation rests in “the future of our football team.” In the opening round of the playoffs, the Giants – led by Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Isaiah Hodgins, and Darius Slayton – put up 431 yards of offense and 31 points. It was a tough day for the defense following some bold proclamations earlier in the week from Donatell, who assured fans that they’d see a better effort in the playoffs.

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Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The decision to move on from the veteran DC comes after a tumultuous season for the defense. Minnesota’s defense finished 28th in the NFL for points against per game and 31st for yards against. At various points, the opposing QB looked completely unflustered by anything he was seeing. Watching QBs work through their progressions in complete confidence as they completed passes with ease became a somewhat regular occurrence.

In the press conference earlier in the week, O’Connell suggested that he was still making the decision on what to do at DC. He transitioned from talking about the players to how he is handling his assessment of the coaching staff. “I’m doing the same thing with my entire coaching staff” O’Connell explained, “I’m in evaluation mode of everything that we did.” He then said that he’s “taking a look at every aspect of our football team and our coaching staff.”

Before coming to Minnesota, Donatell worked under Vic Fangio in Denver. The hope was that he’d have been able to bring over some of the Broncos’ defensive brilliance, but that didn’t transpire.

Jul 28, 2021; Englewood, CO, United States; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

The defensive coordinator position in Minnesota is going to be a desirable one. O’Connell is well respected, and so too is Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The team will be defending its NFC North crown and is coming off a 13-4 record. Given that the HC is an offense-first head coach, the DC will likely get a lot of autonomy when it comes to designing and calling the defense.

For whatever it’s worth, it’s notable that Fangio recently interviewed to be the DC for the Falcons. Another name to consider is Jonathan Cooley, who was the defensive backs coach for the Rams but was recently let go. Last year, Sean McVay blocked him from interviewing for a spot on O’Connell’s staff. Finally, it’s conceivable that Mike Pettine will transition from being assistant head coach to taking on DC responsibilities.

More to come, folks. The defensive overhaul has officially begun.