Rick Spielman Caused a Delay in Vikings DC Search

1 Forgotten Man Deserves Credit for NFC North Title
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in the 2022 season. It was the main reason for the unexpected and early playoff exit. The good news? The Vikings leadership had no option but to take drastic steps. Their first action was parting ways with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

His defensive approach was too passive. Donatell didn’t try to put pressure on the quarterback nearly enough. He had to go after only one season with the club. The Vikings eventually hired Brian Flores, but the search for a new defensive play caller has been more challenging than expected. One man from the past has his share of the problematic process.

Rick Spielman Caused a Delay on Vikings DC Search

Rick Spielman Caused a Delay on Vikings DC Search
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

More than two weeks after firing Donatell, the Vikings finally found his successor. Brian Flores is asked to fix a disastrous unit. This task allows any coordinator to position himself for a head coaching opportunity. Turning around such a bad defense will not go unnoticed.

However, on the flip side, the job comes with a ton of risk. The defensive personnel is already one of the oldest in the NFL, and the top players are getting older and older.

Harrison Smith is 34 years old and the oldest safety in the league. He still played at a high level in 2022 but is no longer the prime version of Smith, who was flying all over the field.

Eric Kendricks will turn 31 years old in a couple of weeks. Observers witnessed a severe dropoff from the veteran linebacker in the last two seasons.

Thing at Stake for
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The two players made everyone playing next to them elite just by pure presence. But they are no longer those players. The defense desperately needs new stars.

Danielle Hunter is 28, and Za’Darius Smith is 30, just like Jordan Hicks. The reasons for the lack of young studs on the unit are easy to find. Former general manager Rick Spielman did a poor job finding defensive talent in his later years as the GM.

In his first few years, he found most players of Zimmer’s feared unit, and he deserves the credit for that. However, he also deserves the blame for the lack of talent in today’s team.

Vikings Could Look Back
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, potential defensive coordinators don’t care about that blame. They just look at the current state of the defense and don’t see the required personnel for a defensive turnaround.

It’s certainly possible that 2022 rookies Lewis Cine, Brian Asamoah, and Andrew Booth can fill those roles, but coaches can’t bet their futures on that. They will never get a head coaching opportunity if they fail to coordinate a good defense, especially since the league is turning to offensive coordinators to lead their teams.

For that reason, Sean Desai prematurely took his name out of the race and may become the DC in Denver, where he has some talented players and a functioning defense, while Ejiro Evero accepted the same job in Carolina over Minnesota.

Brian Flores Will Have 1
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings simply lack the talent to be an intriguing option for an up-and-coming defensive coordinator. Brian Flores and Mike Pettine were the two remaining names for the opening. Flores is a great hire. He turned around a horrible Dolphins team and then got fired in a sketchy way.

Pettine, the in-house candidate, would have been an underwhelming hire, as he was part of the coaching staff in 2022. The new defensive coordinator will beg GM Adofo-Mensah to add some talented defenders in the upcoming draft.

Flores’ scheme is dependent on cornerbacks to be able to cover opponents in man coverage, something the 2022 Vikings rarely did, in part because the players didn’t fit that role. Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, and Cameron Dantzler are the remaining CBs on the team. Flores desperately needs new cornerbacks to play a defense that fits his vision.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt