Vikings Part Ways with Ed Donatell

Ed Donatell Speaks after Exit
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 Minnesota Vikings announced Thursday after their playoff loss against the Giants that they parted ways with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after just one season.

His time in Minnesota was cut short because of too many horrendous defensive performances. The last game of the season, the postseason contest against the Giants, was the final straw for his departure.

Daniel Jones had a career day, passing for two touchdowns and marching up and down the field all game long. He finished with 379 yards. Seventy-eight of his yards came on the ground. Donatell’s unit looked unprepared and caught off guard by his running ability, despite Jones rushing for over 700 yards in the regular season.

Vikings Part Ways with Ed Donatell

Vikings Part Ways
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

After eight years of Mike Zimmer, Donatell was responsible for the defense. He inherited the players of the former head coach, including many aging veterans like Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Patrick Peterson. Age led to declining athleticism.

The Giants and their offensive-minded head coach Brian Daboll exposed that lack of speed. The first two — and four of the top five — draft picks were used on defenders, but they didn’t contribute much in their rookie campaigns.

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer shakes hands with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In addition to the problems with personnel, Donatell implemented a new scheme, changing the base defense from Zimmer’s 4-3 to a 3-4 for the first time in the Vikings organization in almost four decades. That change led to some growing pains, especially since multiple players in the front seven struggled after playing their full careers in Zimmer’s system.

Donatell’s defense was ranked 31st in yards allowed. Only the Detroit Lions allowed more. For points, only the Bears and the Cardinals allowed more than the Vikings 427. It’s fair to wonder how the team finished with a 13-4 record with a horrible defensive unit and what could’ve been with a better defense. The Vikings allowed at least 400 total yards in ten of the 18 games, two more than any other team.

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Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd (29) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) celebrate with linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) for recovering a fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

According to DVOA, the Vikings ranked 27th in defense throughout the season. The move to replace the defensive coordinator must be followed by personnel moves, as scheme and play calls have not been the only problems. The lack of speed up front and the missing of top coverage players didn’t make his job any easier. In addition, all those veterans will be one year older when the next season approaches, and their speed will not suddenly recover.

The Vikings front office must completely revamp the defense to field an effective unit in 2023. Multiple starters are set to become free agents or are potential cut candidates to save cap space.

Minnesota has one of the NFL’s three open defensive coordinator jobs, along with the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons.

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