Super Bowl or Fired for Ed Donatell?

Photo: Anthony Souffle - Star Tribune

The Minnesota Vikings are getting ready to play a Wildcard playoff game vs the New York Giants on Sunday and there’s a lot on the line many inside the organization. It’s unlikely you’ll find anybody at TCO Performance Center who has more on their playoff plate of anxiety than defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell.

Ed Donatell coaching for his job…?

And according to Darren “Doogie” Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North), Donatell is coaching for his job this postseason. Not only does he have to win this weekend vs the Giants. Doogie said on Thursday’s Mackey & Judd Show that Ed has to help the Vikings reach the Super Bowl if he’s going to have any job security entering the offseason (09:45 mark — transcribed below).

“Barring some sort of miraculous 3 or 4 game run here starting on Sunday, I’m fully prepared to start searching on who those candidates are. Will the Vikings reach out to them? Like, I think the end is near here for Ed Donatell.”

“Yes, if they play unbelievably well against the Giants, shock us, I do believe the 49ers beat the Seahawks. So, let’s say it’s Saturday, January 21st, the Vikings go to Santa Clara, if they win that game, if they shut down Deebo [Samuel], Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle & Co. Move onto the NFC Championship Game, then play well, shut down Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, win. Get to Glendale in February… Okay, we can have a different conversation. But I’m not sure I like all of those things happening. I can see them winning on Sunday but not sure I see much beyond that so I am preparing as if there is going to be a change.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd Show
Failed experiment

Donatell was brought in to transition the Vikings from a 4-3 Mike Zimmer scheme to a 3-4 Vic Fangio scheme, something we’re seeing more and more across the NFL. It’s a zone-style coverage scheme that relies on a 4-man rush and focuses on minimizing explosive plays.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, those concepts haven’t carried over to the football field, especially in coverage. Donatell’s 2022 pass defense allowed the 3rd-most air yards in the NFL, 3rd most yards per attempt and 5th-most yards per completion. The defense, as a whole, allowed the 3rd-most points.

ed donatell minnesota vikings playoffs job
Photo: Anthony Souffle – Star Tribune

Still, the Vikings managed a 13-4 season and pulled impossible wins out of situations that wouldn’t even fly in Hollywood. Without a doubt, Donatell’s defense played a part in Minnesota going 11-0 in one-score games. Oftentimes, they’d buckle down late when a stop was required to give the offense a chance or chances.

The good times couldn’t save Ed Donatell’s job.

Like in Buffalo, the Bills scored 24 first half points before the Vikings defense buckled down and only allowed 6 points in the second half. And don’t forget about the fumble they recovered in the endzone to claim victory that afternoon.

Then there was the largest comeback in NFL history vs the Colts. The Vikings gave up 33 first half points, many of which were on offensive mistakes, then only 3 points in the second half. Same type of thing happened in wins over the Patriots and Lions too.

So the defense has had its moments and contributed, at times, to where the Vikings are entering the postseason. But there’s no doubt its been their biggest weakness and stands as that entering Wildcard weekend.

Sure, NFL pundits continue to doubt Kirk Cousins and the injury riddled offensive line is going to be a problem this weekend, but it’s the defense that has the Vikings ranked by Football Outsiders as the least likely of all playoff teams to win the Super Bowl.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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