Bad News for Vikings DC Search After Prized Candidate Withdraws: Report

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings watches action prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers in January 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings‘ pursuit for a new defensive coordinator has taken a tailspin in the shake-up of Sean Payton’s arrival to the Denver Broncos.

Payton, who was hired as the Broncos’ new head coach on February 1, requested interviews with Brian Flores and Sean Desai, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on February 3.

Just hours after news of Desai’s interview broke, the up-and-coming Seattle Seahawks coach defensive coordinator withdrew his consideration for the Vikings job, Denver 9NEWS’s Mike Klis reported.

“Not only have Broncos requested interview for Seattle associate HC Sean Desai for DC but Desai has withdrawn from consideration for MIN DC Job, per source,” Klis tweeted. “Desai interview w/Vikings last wk. Wants to concentrate on DEN. [Former Broncos head coach] Vic Fangio recommended Denver to Desai.”

Desai’s withdrawal opens the possibility that the only fallback plan the Vikings have if their other candidates take jobs elsewhere would be Mike Pettine.

Vikings May Only Have Mike Pettine Left in DC Search

Desai’s withdrawal could be the first of several failures in Minnesota’s search as Friday’s developments have cast a cloud on the Vikings’ defensive coordinator vacancy.

Every remaining candidate besides Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine, who was likely consulted midseason about correcting the teams’ defensive struggles, are considering other offers over Minnesota.

Payton met with current Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero earlier this week to gauge the future of Denver’s defensive coordinator position. Evero is a candidate for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals head coach positions, and the Vikings also have been holding out to see how Evero’s run for a head coaching position pans out.

“The reason the Vikings’ search for a defensive coordinator has been quiet lately is that, per sources, they’re waiting to see if they can get an interview with the Denver Broncos’ Ejiro Evero,” Seifert tweeted. “At the moment, he’s a candidate for the head coach job in Indianapolis and Arizona.”

However, Mile High Sports’ lead Broncos reporter Cody Roark finds Desai and Flores merely “contingencies” in case Evero departs — a signal that if Evero does not get a head coach position he will return to the Broncos.

“To my understand, #Broncos request to interview Brian Flores for DC is Sean Payton being proactive in the event Ejiro Evero gets offered #Colts or Cardinals job,” Roark tweeted. “Have to have contingencies in place, but Evero is very well wanted back.”

Meanwhile, Flores is also in consideration for the Cardinals head coach role.

There’s a scenario that could play out where Evero lands with the Colts, Flores takes the Cardinals job and Desai fills the defensive coordinator role in Denver — leaving Minnesota’s only option Mike Pettine.

You can thank Sean for that.

Vikings Have Burnt Sean Desai Before

While Desai withdrawing his name from the Vikings defensive coordinator consideration before the rest of the coaching dominos fall may be a misstep, there may be a chip on the 39-year-old coach’s shoulders.

He had interviewed for the defensive coordinator position last year, but was passed on when the Vikings decided to hire Ed Donatell instead.

A tireless student of the game, Desai weather three regime changes with the Chicago Bears. He spent nine seasons in Chicago and was Fangio’s right-hand man.

“When he was a safeties coach and quality control coach, players would come over and ask his opinion, whether it was techniques, pass patterns, leverage, landmarks,” Bears college scouting coordinator Bobby Macedo told The Athletic in 2021. “You know who the players respect, and players respect coach Desai. They have his back.”

“Desai knows that scheme and what it looks like when it’s operating at its best,” The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain wrote when Desai departed for Seattle last offseason.

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