After a fascinatingly entertaining season, the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings fell short in the very first round of the playoffs in a notably disappointing performance against the New York Giants.
A loss of this nature prompted head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to fire defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after not only a terrible game but a season-long string of lackluster defensive performances. This firing seems to be a sort of saving grace in the eyes of Vikings fans, but – and by no means do I disagree with his dismissal – even the most talented defensive coordinator will not make this Vikings team Super Bowl champs as is.
The Vikings’ margin of victory (or lack thereof) has been talked about to death this season so I won’t elaborate beyond the fact that it is disappointing for an offense with this talent to end the season with a -3 point differential. First-year head coach Kevin O’Connell certainly should be applauded for his accomplishments this season – winning 13 games and claiming the NFC North – but his offensive playcalling certainly leaves a bit to be desired going forward. KOC’s pass-first mentality certainly plays to the strengths of Minnesotas’ roster, but leaving the run game completely in the past is unacceptable when you have backs like Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison at your disposal. And yes; the Vikings’ offensive line is by no means the most talented group of run blockers in the league but there is no reason to run the ball a mere 35.6% of the time (30th) when you have two extremely skilled running backs who average over 4 yards per carry.
O’Connell also has a history of questionably failing to stick to what works throughout games. The freshest example of that being the Wild Card game against the Giants when Dalvin Cook was consistently putting together strong runs against the NY defense, but O’Connell began running an increased amount of short throws and wide receiver screens, eventually leading to Minnesota stalling out and inevitably losing. KOC is undoubtedly a talented head coach and will be Minnesota’s guy for the future, but he deserves some of the blame for the Vikings’ failure this year and certainly needs to evolve if he wants to make the most of this vastly talented offensive roster.