Ed Donatell has been fired after one season as defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Kevin O’Connell announced the move Thursday evening, just four days following a 31-24 season-ending loss to the Giants in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
“Today I informed Ed Donatell we will be going in a different direction at defensive coordinator in 2023. While this was a difficult decision because of the tremendous respect I have for Ed as a person and a coach, I believe it is the right move for the future of our football team,” O’Connell said in a statement.
Four days before the playoff loss, Donatell met the media and said “I think you’ll like the way we play.” The result was Minnesota’s defense giving up 431 yards of offense, including 267 in the first half that saw the Giants hold the ball for nearly 11 minutes on a second quarter scoring drive.
The numbers during the regular season weren’t any better, allowing 400+ yards nine times and finishing 31st in yards allowed (388.7 per game).
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Donatell’s defensive scheme was criticized throughout the season, namely the soft coverages and four-man pass rush that often game quarterbacks ample time and receivers plenty of room to pile up yards and torch the Vikings defense for an NFL high 224 first downs.
“We like our four-man rush and they have been so close so many times. We get a lot of hurries from this group,” Donatell said in mid-December. “And it’s just that extra little thing if you can hold the coverage just a little bit longer a lot of those rushes will work with four.”
That scheme and players running it generated just 38 sacks, ranking 21st in the NFL. The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks. What’s more telling is how the sacks declined as the season wore on. The Vikings had 25 sacks after eight games and added only 13 more over the final nine games.
“I think Ed tried to do the best he could this year across the board, installing the defense and the scheme that we had kind of manifested together and hoped that it would come to life,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said minutes after the season ended Sunday. “He worked his absolute tail off and his commitment to trying to make some adjustments and improve was there, each and every week, all season long.”
The rush defense ranked 20th overall but was tied for 10th worst at 4.5 yards per carry.