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Here are some candidates the Vikings should consider as next defensive coordinator

Minnesota fired Ed Donatell on Thursday after the Vikings’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Giants

Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio during a game against the Colts on Oct. 27, 2019 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio during a game against the Colts on Oct. 27, 2019 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Sam Riche / TNS
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In a statement released via Twitter on Thursday afternoon, the Vikings officially moved on from defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

“I informed Ed Donatell we will be going in a different direction at defensive coordinator in 2023,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “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.”

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Despite winning 13 games, Minnesota ranked No. 31 in the NFL out of 32 teams in total defense.

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Donatell was in charge of a defense that finished No. 31 in the league and allowed 388.7 yards a game. Only the Detroit Lions were more porous on that side of the ball.

Though it’s not fair to place the blame solely on Donatell — the group of aging players is also very much a problem — someone had to answer for last Sunday’s 31-24 playoff loss to the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The search for a replacement will start immediately. Here are some candidates the Vikings should consider:

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Vic Fangio

This seems like a pipe dream considering Fangio and Donatell have long been attached at the hip. Would he really take a job with the organization that just fired his good friend? Nonetheless, if the Vikings are able to hire Fangio, it would be viewed as a home run. He basically invented the 3-4 defensive scheme the Vikings tried to implement this season.

Mike Pettine

The most obvious choice might already be in the building as Pettine served as the associate head coach for the Vikings this season. It would be a fairly easy transition, and would help O’Connell salvage some continuity with a familiar face taking over the defense. The only issue is Pettine served as the defensive coordinator of the rival Green Bay Packers from 2018-2020 and wasn’t retained once his contract ran out. Maybe the Vikings don’t want to go the route of a retread.

Sean Desai

This makes sense considering Desai interviewed with the Vikings last spring before they hired Donatell as defensive coordinator. Not only did Desai learn from Fangio during his rise up the ranks, he served as the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears after his departure. In other words, Desai understands the ins and outs of the defensive scheme. He was the associate head coach for the Seattle Seahawks this season.

Ejiro Evero

The biggest reason this might not work out is Evero is already getting looks as a head coach. He’s also technically under contract as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, though they’re in the process of hiring a new head coach, and whoever it is might want to bring in his own guy. If available, maybe Evero would be interested in a reunion with O’Connell. They were both on the coaching staff when the Rams won Super Bowl LVI.

Jim Leonhard

It’s not often someone with no coaching experience at the highest level lands a job like this right away. That said, Leonhard is an intriguing candidate because of the success he had with the Wisconsin Badgers at the collegiate level. It also helps his cause that he played in the NFL as a safety. That should make him very relatable to the players he’d be coaching.

Mike Zimmer

Nah. Just kidding. There’s absolutely no chance Zimmer would return to the organization that fired him.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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