After a humiliating loss to the New York Giants in the wildcard, the Minnesota Vikings face a rather intriguing and difficult crossroads. Many veterans are set to leave the team, multiple pending free agents, and cap hits that are going to weigh down the team significantly. Those, however, fall under the responsibilities of GM Kwesi Adofo Mensah, but a greater task is still at hand, the vacant defensive coordinator position. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Kevin O’Connell, who had just parted ways with the previous DC Ed Donatell. The defense was a key issue in the Vikings all season and one I had personally been rather critical of. Now, O’Connell has a chance to rectify that with his next hire.
First, let’s discuss the main candidates. As of writing this, the Vikings have already interviewed co-defensive coordinator of the New Orlean Saints Ryan Nielsen, and assistant head coach of the Seattle Seahawks Sean Desai, interesting names to keep track of. Desai was the 2021 DC of the Chicago Bears (eh), and Ryan Nielsen ran a tight defensive unit in New Orleans that ranked 9th overall, 9th in points allowed and an impressive 2nd in passing yards, an area Minnesota desperately needs improvement in. It’s also notable that Desai had a rather underwhelming unit to work with in Chicago. Both candidates are rather interesting, however I personally prefer Nielsen as his statistical rankings are impressive and he’s proven he’s capable of at least co-running a competent defense. There is, however, one other interesting candidate that Vikings fans are dying to hire.
Brian Flores is currently wasting away on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker staff, waiting for another opportunity at a bigger role. He was the defensive coordinator of the 2018 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a team that held the Los Angeles Rams to a mere 3 points, and more notably served as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2019 to 2021 after being fired for a multitude of reasons. Flores always ran a tight, efficient unit, and his status as a lowly linebacker coach is only the result of the controversy surrounding him. It’s the dream pick for many, including myself, as Minnesota have already requested an interview with the candidate. It’s likely that unless Desai has an outstanding interview, the job will be down to Flores and Nielsen.
Personally, I’m fine with either. Flores is a stable, defensive presence that can stand in as O’Connell’s representative on defense. Nielsen’s co-ran one of the more stable defensive units over the last few seasons however hasn’t run a unit all on his own, something I’m curious about. It’s all up to O’Connell, and this choice is crucial in his development as a head coach. If he can’t choose a defensive coordinator, we might just have the exact opposite of Zimmer, a man who can’t hire someone to run the other side of the ball for no longer than a season, this time on defense. More importantly, Kevin should make sure not to hire anyone who could create a power struggle. It’s unlikely, but as a former head coach and leader of a team, it’d be interesting to see how Flores would handle being in the position of having control over a defense entirely, but O’Connell looks to have a strong enough relationship with the locker room as a whole so this would be highly unlikely and more or less an impossibility.
The defensive coordinator’s been a position that’s had immense importance as of late, specifically with the selection of which. San Francisco’s already on their 2nd DC that’s up for a head coaching gig, as Rob Saleh already coaches the New York Jets. If Minnesota could establish that level of stability, they’d be a force for years. Now, it’s up to Kevin O’Connell to make the right choice.