Brian Flores employed as Vikings’ defensive coordinator

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have employed Brian Flores as their new defensive coordinator, the group introduced Monday, ending a monthlong search to exchange the fired Ed Donatell.

Flores spent final season because the Pittsburgh Steelers’ senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach after being fired as head coach by the Miami Dolphins following the 2021 season. He’ll take over a protection that completed No. 31 within the NFL in yards allowed and is on the cusp of a big personnel overhaul. He has a yearslong relationship with Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell, who was drafted by the New England Patriots as a quarterback in 2008 when Flores was a particular groups assistant there.

After firing Donatell on Jan. 19, the Vikings rapidly interviewed 4 candidates for the job: Ryan Nielsen, Sean Desai, Mike Pettine and Flores. Nielsen took the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive coordinator job and Desai eliminated his identify from consideration, however sources advised ESPN all alongside that then-Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero was their high candidate.

Evero and O’Connell spent two years on the Los Angeles Rams’ teaching workers in 2020 and 2021, and O’Connell hoped to reunite in 2023. But Sunday, sooner or later after the Broncos launched Evero from his contract, he agreed to phrases with the Carolina Panthers to be their defensive coordinator with out taking an interview with the Vikings.

On Monday, the Vikings moved on to Flores, who additionally was a finalist for the Arizona Cardinals’ open head-coaching job.

Flores joins the Vikings one 12 months after suing the NFL and three groups — the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants — alleging discrimination concerning his interview processes with Denver and New York and his firing by Miami. Longtime NFL assistants Steve Wilks and Ray Horton later joined the go well with, which the NFL is making an attempt to maneuver to arbitration. Flores additionally alleged the Dolphins tried to incentivize him to lose video games and take part in unlawful tampering; the league disciplined the Dolphins final summer season for tampering violations of “unprecedented scope and severity,” in accordance with commissioner Roger Goodell.

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It was not instantly clear how Flores’ arrival would have an effect on the scheme that O’Connell initially employed Donatell to put in. Flores’ protection in Miami was identified for heavy blitzing — it had the NFL’s fourth-highest blitz price from 2019 to 2021 — and man-to-man protection within the secondary, two traits the Vikings largely stayed away from below Donatell.

O’Connell stated after he was employed that he wished an method modeled after the 3-4 scheme popularized by longtime NFL coach Vic Fangio. Donatell was a longtime member of Fangio’s workers in San Francisco, Chicago and Denver, however his model of the scheme proved predictable and infrequently ineffective. It drew nationwide scrutiny as early as Week 2, when ESPN analyst Troy Aikman referred to as out the smooth zone protection it used because the Philadelphia Eagles moved the ball up and down the sector in a 24-7 loss.

Donatell made clear that his core philosophy was to depend on his entrance 4 — particularly linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter — to use sufficient stress to permit the remainder of the protection to take a seat again in zone protection. But the Vikings’ four-man rush managed a 23.9% stress price in the course of the common season, the ninth lowest within the league, and their shell zone left far an excessive amount of room for simple yards.

After the protection allowed greater than 400 yards for the fifth consecutive recreation final month in opposition to the Detroit Lions, O’Connell directed Donatell publicly and privately to make modifications. Donatell did make some tweaks to the Vikings’ cross rush schemes, personnel utilization and protection varieties, however it didn’t result in important enchancment.

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Overall, the Vikings have been of their nickel personnel group on 80.4% of snaps, the third-highest price within the NFL, in accordance with NFL Next Gen Stats. They have been in break up safeties on 50.4% of their defensive snaps, the league’s fifth-highest price. They used zone protection at a price of 79.4%, the fourth highest within the league, they usually blitzed on the NFL’s Twelfth-lowest price (22.1%).