Vikings Add 3rd Defensive Coordinator to Search

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell

The Minnesota Vikings parted ways with 2022 defensive coordinator Ed Donatell on Thursday and requested interviews for replacement with Brian Flores, the linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Ryan Nielsen, the co-defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints thereafter.

And on Sunday, the team reportedly added a third contender to the mix, requesting permission to interview Sean Desai, the assistant head coach and defensive assistant to Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

Vikings Add 3rd Defensive Coordinator to Search

The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling tweeted before Sunday’s batch of Divisional Round playoff games, “Source confirmed the Vikings requested an interview with the Seahawks’ Sean Desai for their defensive coordinator opening. They’d interviewed Desai for the job a year ago, as well.”

Vikings Add 3rd Defensive
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

Desai, 39, began his coaching career at Temple University in 2006. Here’s his full resume to date:

  • Temple University: DEF & ST Coach (2006–2010)
  • University of Miami (FL): Assistant Director of Football Ops (2011)
  • Boston College: RB & ST Coordinator (2012)
  • Chicago Bears: DEF Quality Control Coach (2013–2018)
  • Chicago Bears: Safeties Coach (2019–2020)
  • Chicago Bears: DEF Coordinator (2021)
  • Seattle Seahawks: Associate HC / DEF Assistant (2022–present)

The young defensive mind cannot be held solely accountable for NFL defenses since entering the league, but here’s a glimpse at his team’s performances via defensive DVOA:

  • 2013 (CHI) = 25th
  • 2014 (CHI) = 29th
  • 2015 (CHI) = 31st
  • 2016 (CHI) = 22nd
  • 2017 (CHI) = 14th
  • 2018 (CHI) = 1st
  • 2019 (CHI) = 10th
  • 2020 (CHI) = 8th
  • 2021 (CHI) = 13th
  • 2022 (SEA) = 21st

The 2021 season in Chicago is the best reflection of his performance as Desai was the team’s defensive coordinator before head coach Matt Nagy was jettisoned. Desai landed in Seattle in the aftermath of Nagy’s departure.

Vikings Could Look Back
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports.

Desai was also coworkers with the aforementioned Donatell in Chicago, as the two crossed paths in four seasons from 2015 to 2018. Donatell was the Bears defensive backs coach, whereas Desai handled the defensive quality control responsibilities. Their boss during those campaigns, Vic Fangio, is available, too, this offseason for defensive coordinator responsibilities but is not yet on the Vikings shortlist for interviews.

Ed Donatell Speaks after Exit
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Cleveland Browns were interested in Desai recently after firing defensive coordinator Joe Woods but ultimately plucked Jim Schwartz for DC duties in 2023. The Miami Dolphins have also requested an interview with Desai, as Mike McDaniel has a vacancy after terminating Josh Boyer earlier this week.

When Seattle’s offseason began on Monday, Pete Carroll told reporters about his current coaching staff, “we’re staying with our guys; we’re solid,” and specifically about Desai, “we hope we can get him to come back.”

Desai ran a 3-4 base defense in Chicago, which Minnesota implemented with Donatell in 2022. The Vikings are historically a 4-3 franchise, and it is unclear after Donatell’s exit if Minnesota would revert to a 4-3 or remain committed to a 3-4.

Desai will turn 40 in April. He is American-born, and his parents are from India.

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).