A messy process with a clean result is preferable to the opposite.
That should be the overarching sentiment serving the Vikings' pursuit of a new defensive coordinator, a nearly three-week process that ended with the hiring of Brian Flores — a successful former coordinator and head coach who seems like a good fit in a lot of ways.
But I am left with five thoughts about how we got here and where this is headed, some of which were shared on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Let's get into some more specifics and detail here:
1. Kevin O'Connell is admitting his mistake: As a first-year coach, O'Connell hired Ed Donatell to lead the defense. It was a safe choice, a veteran with experience who ran a type of defense O'Connell seemed to favor. But O'Connell and players began airing grievances soon after the season started, and by the end it was clear which side of the ball was the weakest link. O'Connell could have gritted his teeth and stubbornly hoped for adjustments in Year 2. But in firing Donatell and hiring Flores — a very different type of coach — he acted quickly instead of slowly.
2. Avoid a revolving door: The flip side of that decisiveness is that O'Connell has set the Vikings on a familiar path. Mike Zimmer rather infamously had a different offensive coordinator in each of his final six seasons as head coach, and twice there were midseason changes (Norv Turner in 2016 and John DeFilippo in 2018). Some of that was because coordinators got head coaching jobs (Pat Shurmur after 2017 and Kevin Stefanski after 2019), but it left an overall impression of a lack of continuity. It would be great if Flores is successful enough in 2023 to get a head coaching job after one year, but it could also leave O'Connell looking for a third coordinator in three years.
3. How much will they change personnel? The hiring of Flores is only part of the defensive puzzle. The Vikings have been lagging on defense for three years, not just one. They also have a lot of tough decisions to make on high-priced veterans who didn't necessarily fit well in Donatell's scheme (Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter come to mind here). Will the Vikings be tempted to keep more of their core players to see if a new scheme and coordinator helps, or will they try to get younger (and faster) on that side of the ball?
4. Flores mixing coverages: One of the most heartening parts of the Flores hiring is that he uses a lot of different coverages, both man and zone, while blitzing at a high rate. One of the biggest complaints of the Donatell defense is that it wasn't hard to play against — something that seemed to fly in the face of the way O'Connell likes to play. A Flores defense, by design, seems like it will be hard to play against. Split-seconds matter in the NFL.
5. NFL all about connections: In case you needed a reminder that familiarity is important, O'Connell and Flores go back more than a decade to when Flores was on the New England staff when O'Connell was a backup quarterback with the Patriots. Relationships are everything in a lot of businesses, and you never know when you are making an impression.