The Vikings’ First Offseason Domino Quietly Fell

4 Vikings Have Exceeded Expectations in 2022
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL’s yearly January coaching carousel is complete after the Washington Commanders hired Dan Quinn from the rival Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

Five coaches with defensive backgrounds took head coaching gigs while three “offense-first” skippers filled out the class.

The Vikings’ First Offseason Domino Quietly Fell

And quietly, the Vikings’ first offseason domino fell — defensive coordinator Brian Flores will not bolt for a head coaching gig, barring something incredibly unforeseen.

Domino Quietly
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores chatting with Tatum Everett on February 15th, 2023. The Vikings hired Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a linebackers coach for one season.

Minnesota hired Flores one year ago after one season of Ed Donatell’s leadership. Flores improved the defense immediately, transforming his unit to the NFL’s 11th-best in 2023 from 24th in 2022 per DVOA. The relationship worked, and now Flores is on tap for Year No. 2 in Minnesota.

His return wasn’t always certain, though. The Vikings’ defense played absolutely phenomenally between Weeks 4 through 14, ranking tops in the league per EPA/Play, a metric adjudicating expected points added. As Flores’ group ascended the NFL, folks took notice and began to whisper that he could easily be a one-hit-wonder for the Vikings.

Flores Flourish
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

So, Vikings fans treasured what they had at the moment and bided time to determine if Flores would return to the head coaching ranks in 2024. The rumor mill suggested Flores would only jump at the big job if a sturdy franchise had an HC opening, as he appeared to experience a raw deal with the Miami Dolphins after the 2021 season ended. Flores coached the Dolphins from 2019 to 2021 before cutting ties in rather controversial fashion.

Down the stretch of the 2023 season, the Flores defense tapered off, beginning in the 4th Quarter of a game at the Cincinnati Bengals. It never recovered. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers took turns battering Minnesota’s defense, and the damage worked to the tune of the Vikings missing the postseason. Perhaps the defensive dip weakened Flores’ shine as a head coach.

Brian Flores Name Drops
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

Another Vikings’ coach stayed put, as well. As of February 1st, wide receiver skipper Keenan McCardell earned no interviews for offensive coordinator jobs, even though many NFL pundits foresaw such interest. The aforementioned Quinn still has to fill out a coaching staff — McCardell has ties to Washington from one year as a player in 2007 — but that would be McCardell’s final hope for an OC gig in 2024.

So, yes, the Vikings are on the brink of complete coaching continuity, which cannot be a bad thing. Flores was always the one guy throughout 2023 who could depart for the head coaching ranks, but after the carousel, he received no real nibbles.

Could Lose Brian Flores
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

If Flores accepts a promotion elsewhere next year, Minnesota will receive a compensatory draft pick in the wake of his departure.

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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