The Minnesota Vikings’ new regime of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell hopes their 13-win season is a step toward a “championship standard.”
And after assessing the team’s season after a disappointing 31-24 loss to the New York Giants, the Vikings decided Ed Donatell won’t be there and fired the defensive coordinator Thursday.
Minnesota ranked 28th in points allowed and 31st in yards in 2022, and gave up at least 400 yards in seven of its last 10 games of the season — the final being the NFC wildcard round loss to the Giants on Sunday .
Today I informed Ed Donatell that in 2023 we will be going in a different direction as defensive coordinator,” O’Connell said in a statement Jan. 19. “Although this was a difficult decision as I have tremendous respect for Ed as a person and as a coach I believe it is the right move for the future of our football team.”
“I want to thank Ed for his dedication to the Vikings over the past season, for the positive impact he’s had on our players and coaches, and for his role in helping me lay that foundation as my freshman head coach. We all wish Ed and his wife Shari the very best for the future,” added O’Connell. “We will immediately begin searching to fill this critical role as we continue to build a championship standard for the Minnesota Vikings.”
The Vikings (13-4) continued to shock the league throughout the regular season, stringing together 11 single-game wins en route to their first NFC North title and 13-win season since 2017.
In a season-ending press conference, Adofo-Mensah was asked to apply his Wall Street experience to how he would rate his team’s stock after its unlikely run into the postseason.
“I’m a bit off the hook, so I can’t tell you where the S&P500 is, but I would say obviously you have startups and you have your longer-term core [stocks] who have been making money for a long time. I think we’re somewhere in between,” said Adofo-Mensah. “A startup in the sense that we’re in transition: we’ve introduced a new culture, we’ve introduced a new way of playing, but I think this year we’ve established our ability to make money. In our business, profits are profits.
“We’ve shown we have a culture and the ability to do these things at a really high level, but I wouldn’t say we’re the established ‘Da’ team. … We want to be. So I would say we’re in between those two stages right now, trying to be that mature team that goes into the playoffs every year and has a championship standard.
Adofo-Mensah dampened expectations last March when he described Minnesota’s approach to his freshman season as a “competitive rebuild” that involved increasing rather than tearing down the roster he inherited. It proved more competitive than a rebuild as nearly every game turned out to be a stoppage that boiled down to a few key games in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota will have to cut some veterans this offseason to get under the salary cap. However, a full defense overhaul remains an issue on which the defense coordinator is likely to have a strong say.
With the Vikings in the running for a new defensive coordinator, some of the league’s brightest minds are currently interviewing teams across the NFL.
Former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio currently advises the Philadelphia Eagles and has confirmed interviews with the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.
With the Los Angeles Rams imploding this season, defense coordinator Raheem Mostert could be available for an interview. Mostert was a finalist with O’Connell for the Minnesota head coaching position last year.
The Vikings also have a former head coach and defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine.