Mike Pettine: Minnesota’s Plan B

Currently, Minnesota have seemingly narrowed their sights on Steelers linebacker coach Brian Flores, however he seems to be in the running for the Arizona Cardinals vacant head coaching position, meaning the route for him is Minnesota or Arizona. The Vikings have a plan B, current assistant head coach Mike Pettine. Is he any good? Will he do better than Ed Donatell? Let’s take a closer look and see.

Pettine served as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2014-2015, and the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers (ew) from 2018-2020. He also served as the defensive assistant coach for the Chicago Bears in 2021, meaning he’s had his fair share of NFC North football. During his time in Cleveland, he had improved their record in his first year, but was let go the following season after only 3 wins.

In his 2 years as the DC in Green Bay, the team went 13-3 in back to back years, with a stout unit that consistently ranked fairly high, disregarding the run of course. Statistically, they were impressive, but more often than not they were picked apart by the run game. The 2020 NFC Championship game is all the proof you need. As the assistant defensive coach in Chicago, the team went 6-11, but that team was infamously doomed to fail. Minnesota lacks in Pettine’s specialty, however.

Pettine is famous for his work with linebackers and the emphasis he puts on them. Hell, he had edge rushing LBs lined in the slot multiple times throughout his career in Green Bay, and Minnesota definitely lack the depth in this area of the field to satisfy Pettine’s traditional schemes. In fact, the defense lacks talent just about everywhere to be honest, meaning the next DC, regardless of who, is going to have to find a way to compensate for many of the team’s holes. Is Pettine capable of that? Who knows. All I know is Preston Smith lined up in the slot once, and Za’darius did the same thing this season against the Lions. Before you ask, no. It didn’t end well.

Pettine is undoubtedly the safest option, and unless Flores doesn’t get the Cardinals job, the future DC if the Minnesota Vikings. His demands for an athletic linebacker group may seem steep to the team now, but maybe Kwesi can work his magic and maneuver the team into a healthier situation. Like it or not, Za’darius and Danielle are sticking to the OLB spot, and unless Minnesota can find linebackers that’ll satisfy the coverage demands, those two will likely see some pass coverage snaps, God help us all.

Is it the right choice? Who knows. What we do know is Pettine had involvement with the defense this year, which is probably why the team probably leaned so heavily on linebackers in pass coverage in the first place. What we also know is that Pettine probably should’ve taken over defensive play calling duties by week 5 or 6, give or take the leniency. Kevin O’Connell didn’t make that decision, and it cost him. Will the possible hiring of Pettine rectify that? It remains to be seen.
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