Another Candidate Emerges for Vikings Open Coordinator Gig

Minnesota Jumped
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are looking for a new defensive coordinator after the dismissal of 2022 DC Ed Donatell. Minnesota requested an interview with the former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores earlier on Saturday. He is the favorite of many fans of the purple team.

However, Flores is a highly sought coach, so the Vikings need to have more candidates. On Saturday evening, reports emerged that the Vikings requested an interview with the Saints’ co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen.

Another Candidate Emerges for Vikings Open Coordinator Gig

Nielsen is a hot name in the circle. He also interviewed with the Falcons for the same position. The contender for the job is a 43-year-old California-born former football player. He played college football for USC and started 30 games in his NCAA career as a defensive lineman. He later signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles but failed to make the roster in his first season and spent a season in the Arena Football League before he started his coaching career.

Another Candidate Emerges for Vikings Open Coordinator Gig
Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

His first job was defensive line coach for Ole Miss. After spending more than a decade in the college football ranks in various programs and different positions, Nielsen became the defensive line coach for the Saints, his first job in the NFL.

In addition to that job, the Saints promoted him to assistant head coach in 2021 and co-defensive coordinator in 2022. LSU also offered him the defensive coordinator gig in 2021, but he declined. The promotion in the Saints organization probably played a role in that decision.

2022 Vikings Rookies
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings desperately need someone to fix their defense after a pedestrian showing in 2022. According to DVOA, the defense ranked 27th in the league, and the team gave up the third most points and the second most yards.

Significant roster changes are possible. Some aging veterans have huge contracts. Jordan Hicks, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Za’Darius Smith could save the Vikings a lot of cap space. However, the roster has some talented young players. 2022 draft picks Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth, Brian Asamoah, and Akayleb Evans bring excellent athleticism to the table and just wait for their chance to step up.

Brian Flores was fired after leading the Dolphins to two consecutive winning seasons. Syndication Palm Beach Post

Flores was already a head coach and is an experienced play caller. Nielsen is an up-and-coming coach, and the Vikings job is a great opportunity for him. He did not call plays in New Orleans. Head coach Dennis Allen filled that role. Flores would bring a 3-4 scheme, specifically a comparable version of Bill Belichick’s Patriots, while Nielsen would likely bring the Saints’ 4-3 system. If Minnesota chooses one of the two candidates, another transition period has to be expected.

Nielsen’s Saints had the eighth-ranked defense in DVOA, tenth in EPA/play, fifth in fewest yards allowed, and ninth in fewest points.

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