The new Minnesota Vikings regime of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell hope their 13-win season is a step toward maturing toward a “championship standard.”
And after evaluating the team’s season following a disappointing 31-24 loss to the New York Giants, the Vikings decided Ed Donatell will not be a part of that, firing the defensive coordinator on Thursday.
Minnesota finished 28th in points allowed and 31st in yards in 2022, giving up at least 400 yards in seven of its last 10 games of the season — the final being the NFC wild-card round loss to the Giants on Sunday.
Today I informed Ed Donatell we will be going in a different direction at defensive coordinator in 2023,” O’Connell said in a statement on January 19. “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.”
“I want to thank Ed for his commitment to the Vikings this past season, for the positive impact he had on our players and coaches and for his role in helping me as a first-year head coach lay this foundation. We all wish Ed and his wife, Shari, only the best in the future,” O’Connell added. “We will immediately begin our search to fill this critical role as we continue to build a championship standard for the Minnesota Vikings.”
Vikings Setting ‘Championship Standard’ After Falling Flat in Playoffs
The Vikings (13-4) continued to shock the league through the regular season, stringing together 11 single-game victories en route to their first NFC North title and 13-win season since 2017.
In an end-of-season news conference, Adofo-Mensah was asked to apply his Wall Street experience to how he would assess the stock of his team after its improbable run to the postseason.
“I’m a little out of it, so I couldn’t tell you where the S&P500 is, but I would say obviously you have startups and you have your longer-tenured core [stocks] that have earned money for a long time. I think we’re somewhere in between,” Adofo-Mensah said. “A startup in the sense that we are in transition: we brought in a new culture, we brought in a new way of playing, but I think this year we established our ability to earn. In our business, earnings are wins.
“We’ve shown that we have a culture and ability to do those things at a really high level, but I wouldn’t say that we’re the established ‘there’ team. … We want to be. That’s why I’d say we’re in between those two stages right now and we are trying to be that mature team that goes every year to the playoffs and has a championship standard.”
Adofo-Mensah tempered expectations last March when he called Minnesota’s approach in his first season a “competitive rebuild” centered around elevating the roster he inherited instead of tearing it down. It proved to be more competitive than a rebuild with nearly every game proving to be a gridlock coming down to a few key plays in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota will have to cut a few veterans this offseason to get under the salary cap, however, a full rehaul of the defense remains a question that the defensive coordinator will likely have a strong say in.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Candidates
Now that the Vikings are in the mix for a new defensive coordinator, several of the league’s brightest minds are currently interviewing with teams across the NFL.
With the Los Angeles Rams imploding this season, defensive coordinator Raheem Mostert could become available for an interview. Mostert was a finalist for Minnesota’s head coach position last year along with O’Connell.
The Vikings also have a former head coach and defensive coordinator among their ranks in Mike Pettine.