The Minnesota Vikings are running out of options to fill their vacant defensive coordinator position.
Minnesota was considered a top landing spot for Ejiro Evero after the Denver Broncos released the rising coaching star from his contract. However, just a day after talking with the Vikings, Evero declined the position, opting to join the Carolina Panthers instead.
Evero’s departure from Denver has created a vacuum in the coaching market — and it has been pulling candidates way from Minnesota.
Brian Flores Could Spurn Vikings
Evero was the second coach to spurn the Vikings last week with Seattle Seahawks assistant coach Sean Desai pulling his name out of consideration in Minnesota so he could focus on landing Evero’s job with the Broncos.
The Vikings’ lag in hiring a defensive coordinator has been considered a holdout for Evero or Brian Flores — who were in the running for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals head coaching jobs, respectively. But with Evero landing in Carolina, Flores is Minnesota’s only option other than internal candidate Mike Pettine, whose influence on the defense this past season doesn’t offer much optimism about his potential promotion to defensive coordinator.
Flores is one of three finalists for the Cardinals job and has been requested to interview for Denver’s defensive coordinator vacancy as well. The prospect of a third candidate turning their back on Minnesota is a serious possibility — and the reason why is evident.
Fixing the defense is going to require more than just a coaching change.
“[The big issue] would be the fact top candidates look at what fired coordinator Ed Donatell had to work with this season and decide the Vikings personnel on defense doesn’t give them much of a chance to be successful. It’s an aging unit with a lack of talent and is badly in need of an overhaul that might take a few years. There’s a reason why the Vikings’ defense was near the bottom of the NFL this season and why so many players struggled to adjust to Donatell’s 3-4 scheme,” Judd Zulgad wrote for The Vikings Wire.
“Evero also interviewed for the head coaching jobs in Arizona and Indianapolis and aspires to be in charge of his own team one day. His stock might drop if his next stop was with a team that couldn’t stop opponents. Desai, obviously, viewed things the same way.”
Vikings Have Horrendous Recent Draft History on Defense
The dilemma the Vikings defense is facing is a byproduct of a horrendous track record of drafting defensive players in recent years.
After striking gold in the 2015 draft, selecting future Pro Bowlers Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter, Minnesota hasn’t drafted a single defensive Pro Bowler since.
It’s much worse though.
Of 75 players drafted since 2016, Cam Bynum is the only player who was a first-string starter entering the 2022 season. No starting caliber players have emerged from the 2016 to 2019 draft classes and received second contracts in Minnesota.
The Vikings haven’t bucked that trend either with Cam Dantzler being the only other player contending for starting time other than Bynum in the past three draft classes.
Whether this development is a matter of ability or trust remains to be seen. Mike Zimmer in his final years attempted to fortify the defense with budget free-agent veteran signings that took away playing time from developing players on rookie contracts.
Minnesota will likely have to do that again this offseason with little cap space or draft capital to bring in impact contributors.
That’s not a recipe of success for the new defensive coordinator whose reputation will be on the line by taking on the task of turning around one of the league’s worst units.