The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff is beginning to take form by osmosis.
So far, head coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken and offensive line coach Phil Rauscher are out. Zimmer remains unemployed, Kubiak took a job with the Denver Broncos as their quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator, Ficken moves on to the Los Angeles Chargers and Rauscher is taking his talents to the Buffalo Bills.
There are still plenty of coaching positions that will be vacated in the coming weeks that O’Connell will address once in Minnesota.
However, the 36-year-old future head coach appears set on who his highest-ranking defensive coach will be.
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O’Connell Expected to Hire Former Head Coach as Defensive Coordinator
CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported on February 3 that with O’Connell going to the Vikings, “I keep hearing Mike Pettine as the likely DC (defensive coordinator) there.”
Pettine was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2009 to 2012, overlapping with O’Connell, who was the backup quarterback for the team for two seasons.
Pettine and Rex Ryan engineered one of the league’s most formidable defenses in his first two seasons in New York. The Jets ranked first in yards allowed and points allowed in 2009 and were third and sixth in those categories, respectively, the following year.
After the Ryan fallout in New York, Pettine had a brief stint as the Bills defensive coordinator before becoming the Cleveland Browns head coach in 2014. He lasted just two years along with general manager Ray Farmer after the Browns went 10-22 and lost 18 of their final 21 games.
The Vikings defense would see a transformation this offseason with Pettine, who runs a 3-4 defensive scheme that would employ three defensive linemen and four linebackers instead of the heavy 4-3 defensive scheme Zimmer ran in Minnesota.
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Prized Defensive Coach’s Future Uncertain
If Pettine is hired for the defensive coordinator position, Vikings co-defensive coordinator/assistant coach/defensive line coach Andre Patterson will be put into a peculiar situation.
Patterson has helped Minnesota develop top-tier pass-rushers out of mid-round picks in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter over the years. He has several projects underway in D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, Kenny Willekes and Janarius Robinson.
However, whether he stays will be how the Vikings handle his position moving forward. Pettine entering as defensive coordinator would be a de-facto demotion for Patterson, who has coached in the NFL for 17 seasons and has 21 years of experience coaching in lower ranks as well.
He’s one of several position coaches that could help maintain continuity in the locker room amid spiraling chances around the franchise.
However, Patterson has been loyal to Zimmer over the years and could also follow the former head coach depending on the coaching situation Zimmer finds next.