While Bears-Packers remains the premier NFC North rivalry in my eyes, something about how the Vikings and Bears always find a way to be intertwined (in the oddest of ways) always grabs my attention.
In the last two years alone, even: The Vikings were thirsty for Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he went to the Bears when Chicago successfully made a trade-up with the Giants (a trade-up Minnesota tried (and failed), themselves). And a year later, the Bears and Vikings both had eyes on Ryan Poles as a general manager candidate. Some Vikings fans even felt as if it might as well have been a done deal. But it was Chicago swooping in, sealing the deal, and hiring Poles to lead its front office.
Since then, Minnesota brought in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as its new general manager. If you’ll recall, Adofo-Mensah was among the candidates interviewing for Chicago’s GM opening before it went to Poles. The Vikings almost hit a splash hire had it been able to poach Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who is seemingly a perennial future Bears head coach candidate. But Harbaugh went back to Michigan, leaving Minnesota to hire Kevin O’Connell to replace Mike Zimmer.
As for O’Connell’s staff, his next hire might be one with a Bears connection, too:
Ed Donatell has emerged as the favorite or the Vikings defensive coordinator position, sources tell @DanGrazianoESPN and me. Seattle – which was hiring him as a defensive assistant – is now bracing to lose him. New coach Kevin O’Connell getting plenty of experience on defense.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 9, 2022
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that Ed Donatell is emerging as the lead candidate to become the Vikings’ next defensive coordinator. It is a job Sean Desai, another former Bears coach, was reportedly interviewing for in recent days. But it might be Donatell, who was coaching the Bears’ secondary from 2015-18, getting the gig. If you’ll recall, the Bears interviewed Donatell to replace Vic Fangio when he left for Denver. But the Bears chose to pass on him and ultimately hire Chuck Pagano. Because, sure, why not try to make “fetch” happen on another hire with connections to the Bears?
Donatell, 65, is coming off a four-year stint with the Denver Broncos as their defensive coordinator. However, it was just a title for Donatell, because Vic Fangio was making the calls in Denver. Donatell could call his own shots in Minnesota, which is something he hasn’t done since being the DC at the University of Washington in 2008. Donatell hasn’t been the top defensive voice on a team since the 2003 season when he was the Packers’ defensive coordinator. If you’ll recall, this is a thing that happened in a crucial moment of a playoff game:
January 11, 2004: 4th and 26.
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) January 11, 2021
Ouch. Tough scene. And I imagine it’s one Packers fans won’t let Donatell forget about should he become the Vikings defensive coordinator.