Shortly after the team’s Wild Card loss, the Minnesota Vikings fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after just one season with the team. While a 13-win season by Kevin O’Connell surpassed all expectations, there was a sense the team could have gone even further had the defense been even above-average.
Now, Brian Flores will look to reshape a unit that finished 28th in points allowed. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter and several others are reporting, the former Miami Dolphins head coach is accepting the Vikings’ defensive coordinator position.
Flores, who coached the Dolphins from 2019-21, accepted a role with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season as their linebackers coach/senior defensive assistant. Yet, that was always viewed as a temporary stepping stone for the soon-to-be 42-year-old coach.
The Vikings considered several candidates for their vacancy, from Denver’s Ejiro Evero to Seattle’s Sean Desai and even in-house candidate Mike Pettine. While all three of the alternatives bring their own unique traits to the table, Flores is considered the home-run hire.
Related: 2023 NFL defense rankings: See where the Minnesota Vikings’ defense ranks
Minnesota Vikings gain highly respected defensive mind with Brian Flores
In addition to being a candidate for the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator position, Flores had also been in consideration for the vacant Arizona Cardinals head coaching job. While the Cardinals have yet to announce their next head coach, Flores may have gotten the feeling/understanding that he was no longer viewed as a finalist.
Who knows what happened during the interview process, but Flores still moves back up the ladder from being a linebackers coach last season, and he reconnects with coach Kevin O’Connell in the process. Flores and O’Connell were both a part of the New England Patriots in 2008 when Flores was just starting his coaching career as an assistant during O’Connell’s rookie season as a quarterback out of San Diego State.
As far as Flores’ coaching capabilities, he will likely keep the team’s 3-4 defensive scheme in place, reducing the amount of changeover from one season to the next. As far as his resume, Flores gained a lot of respect for what he accomplished in Miami, rebuilding a defense into a feared unit that capitalized on creating turnovers.
As of now, the Vikings have a healthy mix of capable veterans and young talent seeking more coaching. Having a strong leader like Flores could be the perfect fit to get the most out of both players on the back stretch of their careers as well as those just learning how to be NFL pros.
For a team that allowed the second-most passing yards per game, landing coach Flores should be viewed as a big win. We already saw how far the franchise went with a top-10 offense, which shouldn’t be tough to repeat next season, but the defense consistently let Justin Jefferson and Co. down.
In 2020, Flores’ Dolphins defense led the NFL in takeaways and allowed the sixth-fewest points in football. This was a remarkable improvement, considering they ranked dead last in points, 28th in takeaways, and 30th in yards allowed in his first season on the job, taking over a depleted roster.
If Flores can work any of the same magic he pulled off while rising to fame with the Patriots and Dolphins by taking over as the defensive play caller for the Vikings, it won’t be long before he receives another head coaching opportunity elsewhere. Especially if he can take a bottom-ten defense and turn it into even a league-average unit, which should help the Vikings get back to the playoffs, at the very least.
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