Vikings' Kevin O'Connell sees Lions' Aubrey Pleasant as future head coach

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Detroit Lions secondary coach and passing-game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant was a finalist for two defensive coordinator jobs this offseason. And even though newly hired Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell passed up a chance to hire Pleasant, in favor of the more experienced Ed Donatell, O'Connell sees a bright coaching future for his former colleague.

"Oh, I think he's going to be a future head coach in this league," O'Connell said during a Wednesday media session at the scouting combine. "I think the next step in the process for him is coordinating a defense. Aubrey is so impressive to me. He's always been."

Detroit Lions secondary coach and passing-game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant was a finalist for two defensive coordinator jobs this offseason.

A former quarterback, O'Connell got his coaching start in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns. From there he moved to San Francisco, Washington, then Los Angeles, where he served as the Rams offensive coordinator the past two seasons. 

Pleasant was also with Washington for three seasons, but departed shortly before O'Connell's arrival, joining Sean McVay's Rams staff as a cornerbacks coach. O'Connell and Pleasant eventually spent one year on staff together with the Rams. 

The two were on opposing sidelines this year when the Lions traveled to Los Angeles to play the Rams. The game was tighter than many expected, with the eventual Super Bowl champions putting the contest away by forcing two turnovers in the final five minutes. 

"They did some great things, both him and (defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn there in Detroit this year," O'Connell said. "That was a tough group to play against. They were able to kinda infuse a couple different systems of defenses in the NFL into (their system), and, shoot, they were a tough group to play against. You felt Aubrey's presence there and it was good for me to get a chance to speak with him through this process and I have no doubt he's going to continue to ascend, sooner rather than later, in this league. I really do believe that."

Now both in the NFC North, Pleasant and O'Connell will battle twice each season as long as they remain in their current roles. 

More: Once done with football, Flint's Aubrey Pleasant now rising star on Lions' coaching staff

In addition to Minnesota, Pleasant was also a finalist for the coordinator job in New Orleans. That vacancy was ultimately filled by in-house options Kris Richard and Ryan Nielsen, who will share the title. 

A Flint native, Pleasant played collegiately at Wisconsin, before pursing a coaching career. Prior to entering the NFL ranks with Washington in 2013, he spent two years at the University of Michigan, the first as a grad assistant and the second as an assistant defensive backs coach. 

Pleasant most recently served as the defensive coordinator of the American Team as the Senior Bowl, which was coached by members of the Lions staff. 

"Look, AP’s been great and it was one of the reason that we wanted him here," Lions coach Dan Campbell said back in November. "He’s always been able to develop young talent. I brought it up when we hired him, he’s developed a lot of young talent, guys that nobody’s ever heard of, but then he’s also been able to take some of these really elite guys like (Jalen) Ramsey and (Aqib) Talib and those guys and get some of the most productive years out of those guys as well.

"He understands personalities, he knows how to teach, he can reach all different walks of life with those guys in there," Campbell said. "Man, he keeps it interesting, engaging and he’s high energy, he’s passionate."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers