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Minnesota Vikings fire defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after major struggles in 2022

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It had to be expected that Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell would swap out some defensive coaches following a terrible performance from that unit in 2022.

In particular, rumors suggested that veteran defensive coordinator Ed Donatell would be among the “fall guys.”

Well, that is now official. Minnesota released a statement Thursday evening announcing that it has fired Donatell.

“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 fo 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.”

Minnesota Vikings HC Kevin O’Connell on the firing of Ed Donatell

With 10 years of coordinator experience at the NFL level prior to joining Minnesota’s staff ahead of the 2022 season, Donatell seemed to be a perfect hire. O’Connell was inexperienced and focused on the offensive side of the ball during his time as an NFL assistant. Bringing in someone who led the Denver Broncos to a third-ranked scoring defense in 2021 made a ton of sense.

It did not work out. Minnesota’s defense finished 28th in points allowed and 31st in total yards allowed. Its passes defense was also second-to-last.

The death knell to Donatell’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings came in last week’s NFL Wild Card loss to the New York Giants. Their defense yielded nearly 400 total yards of offense to Daniel Jones. For those in Minneapolis, that was enough to move on from Donatell.

Related: Moves the Minnesota Vikings must make this offseason

Whoever Minnesota brings into replace the veteran coordinator will be facing a tough task. Young players have not stepped into larger roles as the Vikings had hoped. Meanwhile, veterans such as linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith took major steps back in 2022.

Perhaps, O’Connell will look to his past by bringing in someone he’s familiar with. This could include current Northwestern defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, who served in that role with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers at the NFL level.