While lining up interviews with three external candidates — the Saints' Ryan Nielsen, the Seahawks' Sean Desai and the Steelers' Brian Flores — for their defensive coordinator job, the Vikings are taking a look at an internal candidate coach Kevin O'Connell knows well.
The Vikings confirmed Wednesday that Mike Pettine, who's currently the Vikings' assistant head coach, has interviewed for the team's defensive coordinator opening to replace Ed Donatell. Pettine previously served as defensive coordinator for the Jets (2009-12), Bills (2013) and Packers (2018-20).
The Vikings already interviewed Nielsen and Desai this week, and have requested an interview with Flores, who is also a candidate for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job.
Pettine first met O'Connell when both were with the Jets, and his work in New York helped him become the Browns' head coach in 2014. When Pettine was in search of a new quarterbacks coach in 2015, he gave O'Connell his first job in the NFL; O'Connell sought out Pettine for an assistant head coach role when he was assembling his first Vikings staff last year.
Pettine's head coaching experience made him an aide de camp of sorts for O'Connell, who could delegate certain tasks to the 56-year-old and turn to him for advice. Pettine also played a role in the "situational masters" meetings Vikings game management coordinator Ryan Cordell conducted each week.
The fact Pettine spent the 2022 season with the Vikings might indicate a similar approach to the one Donatell took with the defense. But Pettine's roots are in a version of the 3-4 defense that emphasized blitzes under Rex Ryan, and he's used man coverage more often in the past than the Vikings did for much of 2022. His Packers defenses dialed back their blitz rates, but Pettine's lineage suggests he could give the Vikings' scheme some different flavors than it had under Donatell.