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Minnesota Vikings interview defensive coordinator candidates

The Vikings defense finished 31st in the league in total yards allowed and surrendered 25.1 points per game, tied for third-worst in the NFL.

EAGAN, Minn. — Just days after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants in the NFC wild-card round, the Minnesota Vikings cut ties with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

The Giants scored 31 points and amassed more than 400 yards to end the Vikings' season unceremoniously at U.S. Bank Stadium. The sluggish defensive outing was a common theme throughout the season. Minnesota finished 31st in the league in total yards allowed and surrendered 25.1 points per game, tied for third-worst in the NFL. So, the decision to move on from Donatell didn't shock the sports world.

Now, the Vikings are looking to the future.

Coming off a 13-win season, Minnesota appears to be one of the more appealing destinations in terms of foundation. In his first season as the team's head coach, O'Connell revamped the culture in the locker room and immediately saw results. The franchise has plenty of pieces — especially on offense — to remain relevant for the foreseeable future, so partnering that with the right defensive coordinator — and scheme — could help the team take the next step.

Here's what we know about the candidates the Vikings have interviewed so far:

Defensive Coordinator Candidates

Ryan Nielsen

  • Current job: Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach
  • Current team: New Orleans Saints
  • Experience: Has spent six seasons as a coach in the NFL, all with the New Orleans Saints. He was initially hired to coach the defensive line in 2017 before also becoming an assistant head coach in 2021 and eventually the co-defensive coordinator in 2022.

Sean Desai

  • Current job: Associate head coach – defense
  • Current team: Seattle Seahawks
  • Experience: Has spent 10 seasons as a coach in the NFL, including stints with the Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks. He started as the Bears' defensive quality control coach back in 2013 before being promoted to coach safeties in 2019. In 2021, Desai became the Bears' defensive coordinator before heading to Seattle to be an associate head coach.

Mike Pettine

  • Current job: Assistant head coach
  • Current team: Minnesota Vikings
  • Experience: Pettine served as assistant head coach this season under rookie coach Kevin O'Connell. The 56-year-old Pettine has 19 seasons of experience as an NFL coach, including three stints as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets (2009-12), Buffalo Bills (2013) and Green Bay Packers (2018-20). Pettine was the head coach for Cleveland for two years from 2014-15.

Brian Flores

  • Current job: Senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach
  • Current team: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Experience: Flores spent last season in Pittsburgh working as a defensive assistant and linebackers coach. Prior to joining the Steelers' staff, he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from from 2019 to 2021. Flores was also part of four Super Bowl teams in New England, where he began as a scout back in 2004. He went on to coach special teams and defense during his time with the Patriots.


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