Dane Mizutani: If Vikings want to set championship standard, Ed Donatell can’t be part of it

The playoff game was a microcosm of the past few months with Donatell at the helm. No pressure. No adjustments. No success.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before Sunday's Wild Card game against the New York Giants.
Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports

EAGAN, Minn. -- If the Minnesota Vikings had a better defense, this week woulda, coulda, shoulda been about preparing for a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Instead, the Vikings watched an incredible season come crashing down with a 3-1-24 loss to the New York Giants.

Never mind that the Vikings finished with a 13-4 regular-season record. Never mind that they won the NFC North running away. Never mind that they hosted a home playoff game for the first time since the Minneapolis Miracle in 2018.

None of that mattered with a defense that proved time and time again that it couldn’t be trusted.

Just look at the way Giants quarterback Daniel Jones dominated Sunday’s game. He went 24 of 35 for 301 yards and a couple of touchdowns through the air against a secondary that sat back in coverage throughout the game. He also rushed 17 times for 78 yards on the ground, helping the Giants amass 431 total offensive yards.

The fact the Vikings had absolutely no answer for Jones was unbelievable. That they had absolutely no adjustments for Jones was unforgivable.


That’s why defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has to go.

The playoff game was a microcosm of the past few months with Donatell at the helm. No pressure. No adjustments. No success.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, coach Kevin O’Connell said he felt like the Vikings have laid a solid foundation despite bowing out of the playoffs sooner than expected.

Dane Mizutani

“The next step is a championship standard,” O’Connell said. “We’re looking at each other and asking ourselves the question with everything we do: Is it championship worthy?”

Everyone knows the answer to that question as it pertains to the defense. Let’s just say it was a far cry from the feared units former coach Mike Zimmer used to pride himself on.

Asked about Donatell’s future with the organization, O’Connell remained noncommittal, saying, “I’m in evaluation mode of everything that we did.” His answer still spoke volumes because he didn’t rule out the possibility that the Vikings would go in a different direction.

They should.

Regardless of who was under center on the other end, whether it was Eagles MVP candidate Jalen Hurts or Jets journeyman Mike White, the Vikings couldn’t consistently stop an NFL offense. They allowed a whopping 388.7 yards of total offense a game, getting sliced and diced every time they stepped onto the field. Only the Detroit Lions were worse leaguewide in terms of total defense.


Now this isn’t solely on Donatell. He was in charge of a group of aging players that have clearly lost a step. It’s fair to wonder if the Vikings will decide to move on from veterans such as Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter, among others, in the coming months.

That said, it’s the job of a defensive coordinator to get the most out of his players on that side of the ball. You could argue that Donatell got the least out of this particular group over the past few months.

“We fell below what we hoped to be, both schematically and our performance on the field,” O’Connell said. “I think it’s very, very important we look at it from the standpoint of, ‘Why did it happen?’ ”

Sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer.


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