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Why Ejiro Evero is at the Top of the List to be Vikings Defensive Coordinator

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

After a series of moves by the Denver Broncos, their now former defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has been released from his contract and will be interviewed by the Vikings in the next few days. The Vikings have interviewed several candidates for their defensive coordinator opening, but Evero has reportedly been at the top of their list- if available. Up until he was released from his contract after talks with Broncos new head coach Sean Payton, his availability to be Vikings defensive coordinator seemed unlikely at best. The Broncos could and did block him from interviewing for a lateral move, and Evero was also a candidate for head coaching openings (he remains an option for a couple teams but doesn’t appear to be the favorite). So it seemed that Evero would either remain defensive coordinator with the Broncos or become a head coach somewhere else. But then the Broncos released him, making him available to interview for the Vikings’ defensive coordinator job- and there appears to be strong interest on both sides.

There are several reasons why Evero tops the Vikings list of potential defensive coordinators, including his familiarity with both Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah, his reputation and track record, and his scheme background and versatility.

Why Ejiro Evero is a Good Fit for the Vikings

It’s not surprising that the Vikings were hoping Evero would become available to fill their defensive coordinator opening. Evero was with the Rams in 2020 and 2021, while Kevin O’Connell was offensive coordinator, so the two know each other. Evero was also with the 49ers when Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah was there, so there is familiarity there as well. Evero is also a young (41) coach known for his energy and strong communication skills, which fits well with the Vikings regime and culture.

Evero is also well versed in a wide variety of defensive schemes, including the Fangio scheme the Vikings employed this past season, after working under Monte Kiffen, Vic Fangio, Don Capers, Wade Phillips, and Raheem Morris. Evero used a scheme similar to the one DeMeco Ryans used in San Francisco this past season, his first as a defensive coordinator after 15 years coaching in the NFL.

In his first season as defensive coordinator in Denver, the Broncos finished 10th in defensive DVOA, seventh in defensive EPA, seventh in yards allowed per game (320), seventh in opponent points per drive (1.71), second in third-down success rate (34.1 percent), seventh in opponent red-zone touchdown rate (51.1 percent), fourth in defensive three-and-out percentage (37.9) and tied for 14th in takeaways (23). This despite missing edge rushers Randy Gregory- who only played six games- and Bradley Chubb who was traded mid-season, and despite an unproductive offensive that left them on the field much of the game. The Broncos finished 20th in defensive DVOA under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell the previous year.

Rising Star in the NFL

Evero is widely regarded as a rising star in the NFL, which is why he got some head coaching interviews despite only one season as a defensive coordinator. Rams head coach Sean McVay counts himself as the least surprised at Evero’s success as defensive coordinator after leaving the Rams to be DC of the Broncos:

‘Incredibly smart, intelligent, great disposition, demeanor. He knows how to connect with all types of guys, knows how to be able to help them reach their highest potential…He’s an absolute stud. Least surprised person of how well they’ve done and how great of a job he’s doing leading the defense is me.” - Sean McVay on Ejiro Evero

Evero is also well respected by his players, many of which had their most productive seasons under him this past season.

“He is just a tremendous leader. I could be up here for hours just talking about how amazing of a coach and a man he is. I’m just really appreciative of him. He helped my game so much this year. Just when you think you know a good amount, you always learn so much more from a new mind and a new set of eyes and the way that he coaches and the way that affects coaches, the assistant coaches around the defensive room. I’m just so thankful for him and his leadership. I’ve learned so much from him, both on and off the field.” - Broncos 3x second-team All-Pro safety Justin Simmons on Ejiro Evero

“He provides all the qualities you need in a coach. He’s a great leader, very outspoken, brings a lot of energy into the room and he’s just a great person in general. A great people person. You can go to him for anything. On the football field, he’s just going to go out there and bring all the energy. He’s going to do what is best for the team.” - Broncos All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain II on Ejiro Evero

He’s a great leader. You’ve seen the defense, it’s a reflection of him. Communication is unbelievable through him. There’s no disguise, there’s no hidden thing, he’s going to let you know how he feels. He’s going to let you know how to play certain things. There are no questions left at the end of the day which is the biggest thing. Whether it be going out there on defense for a game or during practice, we know exactly what we’re doing. I just say that transparency of him being fully there and never holding anything back is very important. And as you saw, he brings us all together.” - Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell on Ejiro Evero

Player-Oriented Scheme

Having had exposure to a wide variety of schemes over his 15 years coaching in the NFL,

Evero isn’t set on one particular scheme. Instead, he molds his scheme to fit the players he has. But he does have one overriding defensive philosophy: pressuring the quarterback. When asked about his scheme and pressure packages, Evero responded this way: “Regardless of how it turns out, you have to affect the quarterback,” Evero said. “That’s the No. 1 deal in terms of stopping the pass game in the NFL. We have to pressure the quarterback and I think it’s a credit to our secondary guys and the fact that we feel good about covering, which allows us to do those types of things. We have to get to the quarterback and feel good about our four-man rush, and feel good when we bring pressure because we can cover.”

Evero has Learned Under Some of the Best Defensive Coordinators

Evero’s background is coaching the defensive secondary, but he knows the value of the marriage between pass rush and pass coverage, and isn’t afraid to blitz at higher than average rates. Evero has learned a lot from the different defensive coordinators he’s coached under, each bringing a different focus.

“The biggest takeaway from Raheem [Morris] is that he had coached on offense and defense. He’s been a head coach. He’s seen football from so many different vantage points,” Evero said. “He had been in a 3-4 system and he had been in a 4-3 system, and he just knew so much football in general. So when he would coach our defensive guys, so much was not only just coaching our scheme but coaching how offenses were looking to attack you. I just thought he was really brilliant about talking about, ‘OK, this is the intent of these offensive plays and this is how they are going to attack us. This is how we can adjust.”

From Vic Fangio Evero learned the two-high safety system that has spread across the league rapidly in the last five seasons and a desire to always stay one step ahead of how offenses were evolving to match it.

From Monte Kiffen he learned the importance of turnovers and ‘winning the ball.’ “The biggest thing about Monte was his scheme wasn’t very hard, but it was just about, ‘We know exactly what we’re supposed to do. We’re going to play fast.’ There are no mistakes. Everyone is running to the ball and attacking the ball. It was the first time in my coaching career that I’d really seen (an emphasis on) attacking the football. I got that from Monte.”

From Wade Phillips, father of Vikings’ offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, Evero learned the element of time management and concise game planning.

“Wade had a great sense about the things that were important and that you should stress and the things that you shouldn’t,” Evero said. “There’s just so much stuff, and as you start preparing for your opponent you can almost get overwhelmed by all this stuff that you potentially have to defend. And I would always get frustrated, like, ‘Wade, how are we going to cover this? How are we going to cover that?’ Wade would be like, ‘Don’t worry about that. They’re not going to do that.’ He was right most of the time. He just had a great sense of, ‘OK, let’s focus on the things that are going to happen.’”

Bottom Line

It’s easy to see why the Vikings have a lot of interest in making Ejiro Evero their next defensive coordinator. There is familiarity with him personally with both Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah, having worked together with both of them at different times, there is his track record, which has been impressive, as has his reputation with coaches and players he’s worked with in the past. Many Broncos fans and media outlets did not want him to go. And he comes with an open mind in terms of scheme, preferring to mold that to the strengths of his players, but also has familiarity adapting the Fangio scheme the Vikings used last season.

What remains to be seen is if the Vikings and Evero can close the deal. The Panthers are also very interested in Evero. Stay tuned.


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