Minnesota Vikings: A look at their candidates for defensive coordinator

Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t address it directly last week in wrapping up the Minnesota Vikings’ 2022 season at TCO Performance Center, but they knew something had to change with the defense.

A day later, Ed Donatell’s tenure as the leader of the Vikings’ defense ended after just one season. The Vikings had statistically one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2022. They gave up more than 400 total yards in 10 of 18 games. They were inconsistent in stopping the run, there were coverage breakdowns. They also finished 28h in points allowed, at 25.1 per game.

The Vikings allowed Daniel Jones to make playoff history. He’s now the only quarterback ever to pass for at last 300 yards, two scores and run for at least 70 yards.

The Vikings are now doing their due diligence and interviewing candidates for the position. Here’s a look at the three the team has announced thus far.


Mike Pettine served as O’Connell’s assistant head coach this season. He’s been a defensive coach with the Baltimore Ravens from 2002-08. He was the New York Jets defensive coordinator from 2009-12, spent one season in Buffalo and was the head coach in Cleveland in 2014-15. He was also the Packers’ defensive coordinator for three seasons. Pettine did his initial interview on Wednesday.


The Vikings on Tuesday interviewed Sean Desai, who spent the 2022 season as the Seattle Seahawks’ associate head coach. He was the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator in 2021, and started his NFL career with the Bears in 2013 in defensive quality control.


The Vikings on Monday held an initial interview with Ryan Nielson, who spent the 2022 season as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach with the New Orleans Saints. He’s been with the Saints since 2017, and was a college coach from 2002-16.


The Vikings on Thursday announced they interviewed Brian Flores, who spent 2022 as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2019-21. Flores has also interviewed for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job, and for the defensive coordinator openings with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.