Vikings Can Avoid Regression from the Sidelines

Vikings Are the 8th-Worst Team in Football per 'Football Outsiders'
Kevin O'Connell

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to be in a much better position because they had moved on from Mike Zimmer and were looking at a more progressive offensive strategy. Kevin O’Connell came in and took Minnesota back to the playoffs while utilizing all of the team’s weapons. In 2023, the hope may have to be on Brian Flores doing the same thing.

Let’s get this out of the way: The Vikings defense does not have nearly the weapons the offense does. Obviously, that’s not a shock when discussing one of the worst units in football last year. That said, there are still capable pieces on the opposite side of the ball, and youth has yet to be pushed to its full potential.

Vikings Can Avoid Regression from the Sidelines

A season ago, we saw Ed Donatell step in, and things went wrong from the get-go. Minnesota constantly needed to score to help the leaky defensive unit, and more than a few young talents seemed to regress or stall out in their development. Had the Vikings not kept winning despite those realities, it’s fair to assume Donatell would have been shown the door during the season.

Avoid Regression from
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Despite Minnesota needing to rely heavily on players such as Cam Bynum and Cam Dantzler, Donatell saw both take steps backward. For a unit that needed a leader to coach up developing players, seeing the unit and pieces carried over get worse was more than a suboptimal reality.

Fast forward to where we are now, and Brian Flores is in charge. Viewed as one of the best defensive minds in the game, Flores brings a resume that has seen his teams step up substantially. It is fair to note that almost every unit he has coached was composed of a better overall group than what Minnesota currently boasts, but it will be on him to put pieces in the right places.

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores takes over the team’s defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

A year ago, it seemed that Kevin O’Connell’s leadership and direction made all of the difference for Minnesota. They won ugly games. They needed to come from behind. Character and determination were routinely tested. O’Connell had the leadership ability at almost every crossroads to propel his team forwards. In 2023, that will need to continue but permeate to the other side of the ball.

It is great that the Vikings brought in more defensive talents, such as Mekhi Blackmon, Jay Ward, and Jaquelin Roy. They will happily welcome back safety Lewis Cine, and Brian Asamoah will now move into a starting role. There is an opportunity for young players to step up, but their readiness will likely directly reflect the man leading them.

Flores developed an impressive track record with the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers. He may have been among the most coveted options on the coaching market, and a turnaround of epic proportions could again land him a head coaching gig. That would be less than ideal for Minnesota, but it would be the outcome of a worst-to-first type of story.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

With limited financial resources up against the salary cap and opting for a wide receiver in Jordan Addison during round one, Minnesota didn’t overhaul their defensive unit by any means. What they did do was make incremental changes that will now be overseen by a substantial change in leadership. The hope would be that this one goes as well as the one from the other side of the ball last year.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.