“All Signs Point” to 1 Man for Vikings Defensive Coordinator

The Minnesota Vikings cut ties with 2022 defensive coordinator Ed Donatell over two weeks ago after the team embarrassingly lost at home to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs. New York marched up and down the field on Minnesota’s defense, and Donatell was subsequently not retained for next year.

In the last 17 days, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has interviewed Sean Desai (Seattle Seahawks), Brian Flores (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ryan Nielsen (New Orleans Saints), and Mike Pettine (Vikings) as possible Donatell replacements. But Desai withdrew his name from the hopper this week, pursuing the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator job, and Nielsen chose the Atlanta Falcons for a DC gig.

“All Signs Point” to 1 Man for Vikings Defensive Coordinator

So, that should leave Minnesota with slim pickings, down to Flores and Pettine for the 2023 defensive job, right? Not so fast.

1 Man for Vikings
Aug 22, 2020; Inglewood California, USA; Los Angeles Rams safety coach Ejiro Evero during a scrimmage at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The new, probable man for Donatell’s job is Ejiro Evero, who defensively coordinated the Broncos in 2022. Mike Klis from Denver’s 9News tweeted Saturday night, “Ejiro Evero is gone. Per source, Broncos are releasing him from contract. (1st by Ian Rapoport). While Broncos like Evero and hoped to retain him, he wanted fresh start elsewhere. All signs point to Evero as Vikes DC. Broncos to interview Sean Desai, Brian Flores for DC.”

May 13, 2022; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero during rookie minicamp drills at UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

The aforementioned Flores could still land the Arizona Cardinals head coach job — he interviewed for that gig weeks ago — and Denver interviewed Flores for Evero’s defensive coordinator job, too. As for Pettine, well, the Vikings probably would’ve hired him by now as he’s the in-house candidate, serving as Minnesota’s assistant head coach in 2022.

Evero also interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts top job during this year’s coaching carousel, so he’d assuredly jump at that job if Chris Ballard came knocking. But, like Pettine and the Vikings, that may have already happened by now.

Aug 10, 2022; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive line coach Marcus Dixon (L) talks with defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero (R) during training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The 42-year-old English-born coach is widely respected around the NFL, and when Nathaniel Hackett was canned in Denver, Evero took over as the Broncos head coach. He interviewed for head coaching jobs this cycle with the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Colts — and Broncos.

Evero also has ties to Minnesota’s general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. Evero worked as a quality control coach, offensive assistant, and defensive assistant from 2011 to 2015 with the San Francisco 49ers, overlapping time with Adofo-Mensah, who worked for the 49ers from 2013 to 2019.

If one needs more hints, Evero worked on Sean McVay’s staff with the Los Angeles Rams, the same place O’Connell offensively coordinated before joining the Vikings as head coach one year ago. Evero was a safeties and secondary coach from 2017 to 2021, while O’Connell was McVay’s top offensive lieutenant in 2020 and 2021.

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell against the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

On Evero’s watch in 2022, Denver ranked ninth in the NFL per defensive EPA/Play in 2022 and 10th via DVOA. If the name sounds familiar for NFC purposes, Evero was the Green Bay Packers defensive quality control coach in 2016.

If Klis is correct, the Vikings pursuit of a defensive coordinator should be nearing the finish line.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.