Former Broncos Coach Takes Reins of Vikings Defense

Considering the Minnesota Vikings don’t “officially” have a new head coach – Kevin O’Connell cannot be formally announced until after Super Bowl LVI – it’s rather noteworthy that news of the next defensive coordinator arrived on Thursday.

Minnesota now reportedly turns to veteran defensive coordinator Ed Donatell for defensive operations after eight seasons with Mike Zimmer’s stranglehold on that side of the ball.

Donatell, 65, is incredibly seasoned as a defensive thinker, spending time with the 49ers, Bears, Broncos, Falcons, Jets, and Seahawks – dating back 32 years.

This experience checks out. Why? Because the new head coach, Kevin O’Connell, has zero HC background, plus, to date, he has nothing to do with a team’s defense. Theoretically, Minnesota could’ve left the DC hire to chance with a younger man, but the Vikings opted for steadiness.

Jul 28, 2021; Englewood, CO, United States; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

To be sure, Donatell does not produce Zimmer-like or Fangian defenses by the numbers (as of late). His units are never terrible, but none of his defenses amid the last 20 years have finished in the Top 10 for defensive efficiency.

The Donatell hire creates dependability, close to mandating the Vikings won’t stink on defense – as they have since Week 1 of 2020.

Donatell joins the Vikings after three seasons in Denver as the defensive coordinator. He’s classified as Vic Fangio’s right hand, and that’s never a bad thing. And that’s the same Fangio who was rumored to become the Vikings defensive coordinator if HarbaughMania came to fruition.

Alas, it did not, so Minnesota gets Fangio-lite.

By some of the volume metrics, Donatell and Fangio’s Broncos were quite productive in 2021.

Also of colossal note: Donatell traditionally runs a 3-4 defense. The Vikings – seemingly forever – have utilized a 4-3 defense. All of that change from the general manager, head coach, and now the defensive scheme is more real than ever.

Donatell won a pair of Super Bowl rings in 1997 and 1998 with the John Elway-led Broncos. He was the defensive secondary coach.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).