Former NFL Coach: Vikings Are ‘Fragile,’ Have ‘Red Flags’

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A former NFL coach isn’t shy about adding new meaty adjectives and nouns to the 2023 Minnesota Vikings outlook.

He’s Dave Wannstedt, who was the head coach for the Chicago Bears for six seasons in the 1990s and the Miami Dolphins from 2000-2004.

Former NFL Coach: Vikings Are ‘Fragile,’ Have ‘Red Flags’

Wannstedt now writes for The 33rd Team, a think-tank website featuring NFL analysis and opinions.

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So far this offseason, the Vikings added eight new veterans, a collection headlined by EDGE rusher Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints and cornerback Byron Murphy of the Arizona Cardinals. Ten players exited the backdoor via release, waiver, or trade, including big names like Adam Thielen (Panthers), Eric Kendricks (Chargers), Dalvin Tomlinson (Browns), Patrick Peterson (Steelers), and Za’Darius Smith (trade — Browns), among others.

And that evidently spooks Wannstedt, who opined this week that “red flags surround the Vikings” while breaking down one surprise from each NFL division. His surprise in the NFC North was simply that — Minnesota has warning signs.

early expectations
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“The Minnesota Vikings won 13 games last season and won the division. They won 11 one-score games, so hats off to coach Kevin O’Connell. He did a fantastic job, but I’m a little concerned about the Vikings,” Wannstedt wrote. “They appeared to be a fragile team. They won all those close games, but I didn’t see a lot of confidence in their team.”

In his first year, head coach Kevin O’Connell steered the Vikings to an NFL-record 11-0 win-loss mark in one-score games. Simultaneously, opponents outscored Minnesota to the tune of three points, a first-ever stat for a 13-win team. Before the 2022 Vikings, no 13-win squad had ever been cumulatively outscored. The stat likely fueled Wannstedt’s concern.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Wannstedt continued his Vikings-themed apprehension, “This year, they added Brian Floes, who is an excellent defensive coach, as their defensive coordinator. He is a hard-line, no-nonsense guy. O’Connell has a more laid-back approach. So how will this staff mesh?”

Minnesota ranked 27th last per defensive DVOA and got embarrassed accordingly at home in Round 1 of the postseason. The Vikings couldn’t stop the not-overly-talented New York Giants, New York won the wildcard showdown by seven, and the offseason began with Minnesota searching for defensive answers. They found Flores as a fix-all of sorts.

“Other than those areas, they’re pretty much the same team. They moved on from some players and added a couple, but none are impact guys. This seems like the same type of team that has some personality issues they’re going to have to work through. If they do, they’ll be as good as they were last season. If not, this team could slip,” Wannstedt concluded.

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Agreeing or disagreeing with Wanntstedt’s synopsis boils down to one simple litmus-test question for Vikings fans. Was O’Connell more lucky than good in his first season? Or is it impossible for an NFL team to stumble onto a 13-4 record?

If the Vikings finish 8-9 or worse in 2023, O’Connell, in retrospect, will have seemed lucky in Year One. But back-to-back winning records would suggest otherwise and dampen Wannstedt’s ‘fragile’ or ‘red flags’ forecast.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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