The Minnesota Vikings are making a change to the top of their defensive masthead. On Thursday, head coach Kevin O’Connell released a statement announcing the organization had stepped away from defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. O’Connell added that the team will begin searching for a new defense coordinator immediately.
“Today I informed Ed Donatell that we will be going in a different direction as defensive coordinator in 2023,” O’Connell’s statement said. “Although this was a difficult decision due to the tremendous respect I have for Ed as a person and as a coach, I believe it is the right move for the future of our football team. I want to thank Ed for his dedication to the Vikings last season, for the positive impact he’s had on our players and coaches, and for his role in helping me lay that foundation as my freshman head coach. We all wish Ed and his wife Shari the very best for the future.
“We will begin our search for this critical role immediately as we continue to build a championship standard for the Minnesota Vikings.”
Donatell was brought on board last offseason to oversee Minnesota’s defense and joined O’Connell’s staff as he rose to head coaching position after being offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. The 65-year-old has been in the NFL since 1990, when he made his breakthrough as a defensive backs coach with the New York Jets. Since then, he’s jumped through the league, holding the DC title for various teams: Packers (2000-03), Falcons (2004-06), Washington (2008), and Broncos (2019-21).
Before taking the job with the Vikings, Donatell had initially accepted a senior defensive role with the Seahawks but decided to leave Seattle at the altar to become a defense coordinator in Minnesota.
During the season, the Vikings’ defense proved to be the team’s Achilles heel. It allowed the second most total yards in the NFL, the second most passing yards, and was tied for the third most points allowed. The Minnesota defense also ranked 27th in the NFL in DVOA. In the super wildcard weekend loss to the Giants, Donatell’s defense gave up 31 points and 431 total offensive yards, allowing New York to average 6.3 yards per game as Minnesota was sent home after a 13-4 campaign and the No. 2 was seed in the NFC. All of this proved enough for O’Connell to seek new management of his defense in the future.