The Minnesota Vikings have picked Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who is 36 years old, after holding a second interview with him in Los Angeles on January 31 to be their next head coach.
O’Connell collaborated with Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in San Francisco in 2016 when O’Connell was the 49ers’ special projects staff coach with Chip Kelly.
According to sources, Adofo-Mensah held O’Connell in high respect before his hiring by the Vikings, putting him on a list of coaches the general manager wanted to work with. O’Connell appeared as one of the favorites for the Vikings position when the organization began its second round of interviews this week.
What could have been?
The Vikings also reached out to Michigan and were granted permission to talk with Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s links to the new Vikings general manager who worked with the former Niners head coach in San Francisco from 2013 to 2014, played a significant role in Harbaugh being a contender for the head coaching job.
However, Harbaugh rejected the Vikings’ offer and returned to Michigan. The Vikings also interviewed Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as well as Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for a second time. Those two were also finalists for the job.
The Vikings will rely on the bond between their 40-year-old general manager and their 36-year-old coach to rebuild an organization that was riven with conflict at the conclusion of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman‘s tenure.
By the end of the 2021 season, Zimmer and Spielman were no longer conversing, and star linebacker Eric Kendricks hinted at a desire for change.
The benefits of hiring Kevin O’Connell include him fitting the mold of the young, data-driven offensive expert. O’Connell was Brandon Staley’s initial pick for offensive coordinator last year, but Sean McVay blocked it. He also had additional head coach interviews, but it is the strategy that he provides that is the deciding factor in his hiring.
However, the risks, are significant. O’Connell’s duties as passing game coordinator were added to his resume in 2018. He was promoted to coordinator in 2019.
Jay Gruden, the former head coach, did not call plays until he was dismissed. In Week 6, interim head coach Bill Callahan delegated such responsibilities to O’Connell. O’Connell has only called plays for an NFL offense 10 times in his career.
It’s unknown what sort of leadership he’ll offer and what kind of culture he’ll be able to create, which is the best thing a coach can have. The defensive coordinator job will be critical because the defense has the potential to be disastrous.
He will be the fourth former assistant under Rams head coach Sean McVay to be hired as an NFL head coach. Zac Taylor was McVay’s quarterbacks coach before being hired by the Bengals, who will meet the Rams next week in Super Bowl LVI.
O’Connell’s Fit for the Vikings
O’Connell only coached Cousins for one season, where he was the quarterbacks coach in 2017, where the current starting quarterback for the Vikings put up 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, 4,093 yards while completing 64.3% of his passes.
The pass catchers are there with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. That is a great duo of wide receivers to start with, now add in K.J. Osborn to the mix. You also do have tight ends Irv Smith and Tyler Conklin.
The offensive line is pretty good as well. The Vikings drafted Christian Darrisaw in the first round in 2021 who had a 71.9 PFF grade. Ezra Cleveland, who was a second-round pick in 2020, had a 68.5 PFF grade. Garrett Bradbury was the Vikings’ first-round pick back in 2019 and has a 60.1 PFF grade.
Wyatt Davis, who was a 3rd round pick in 2021, didn’t play a snap all season is someone who could be the starting right guard for the Vikings in 2022. Brian O’Neill is the anchor across this offensive line; he had a 73.7 PFF grade.
The Vikings spent a lot of draft capital on this offensive line over the years, and O’Connell can jump-start it.
The Vikings’ defense does need some work but in time this Vikings team can be a threat in the NFC.
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