Vikings Eyeing Pettine a Bit Too Late

Since the offseason has started for the Minnesota Vikings, the most substantial change made has been in relieving former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell of his duties. That was the right move, but looking internally at Mike Pettine at this juncture seems a bit misguided.

During the season it was clear that Ed Donatell was not a good defensive coordinator for Minnesota. Despite whatever good will the offense mustered, it was constantly an issue with the defense failing to do their part. Had the Vikings been below .500 in the win column, there is no question that Donatell would have been dealt with earlier.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

As the season drew on and it became clear things weren’t going to get better, O’Connell had the opportunity to make a change. Rather than overhauling the coaching staff as a whole, he could have turned to assistant head coach Mike Pettine. Already in the building and with plenty of defensive experience under his belt, there is no reason that move would have been seen as unfathomable.

Now though, when an entirely open set of options with no negative ramifications is open to them, is not the time to look within.

Pettine previously coached the Green Bay Packers defense. In year one he oversaw a unit that ranked 18th in yards against, and 22nd in points. The yardage rank didn’t change in year two, but he had the division rival among the top ten in both points allowed and takeaways. By year three, Pettine oversaw a unit that was 9th in yards against and ultimately finished with a 13-3 record.

Vikings Eyeing Pettine a Bit Too Late
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine its shown before their game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, October 21, 2019 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL Packers21 5 Hoffman

He was jettisoned from Green Bay following a playoff exit, and he coached in 2020 with an expiring contract. Head coach Matt LaFleur threw him under the bus following a Buccaneers loss when he highlighted a game-changing touchdown saying, “Definitely not the right call for the situation. You can’t do stuff like that against a good football team and expect to win.” 

Fans of the division rival probably still hold ill will towards Pettine, but he had the Packers as a top 10 defense in yardage allowed for the first time since 2010. Still, and while the improvement was notable, it’s hard to think that Minnesota won’t have better options to explore. Brian Flores is a name highly regarded, and he could be brought in as a substantial figurehead for a defense that severely lacks an identity.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine talk during a team practice at the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 in Ashwaubenon, Wis. Gpg Packers Practice 042319 Abw117

At the end of the day, it’s not so much that Pettine is a bad choice, but waiting until this time is a bad decision. Minnesota could have seen how this would have gone weeks ago. The defense may have been in a position to turn things around before the Wild Card round exit. Hiring Pettine now would be a near admittance of a failure in process from how things were handled during the season, and that’s not something either side should want to shoulder.

It would be awesome to see Pettine stay with the Vikings coaching staff, and more people working to correct a truly terrible defense is a good thing. For now though, with O’Connell picking his own guy, it can’t be a coach that was on his staff all season and went overlooked.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.