The Minnesota Vikings made an outside-the-box hire. According to multiple reports, the Vikings will appoint Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell as their next head coach following his participation in Super Bowl LVI. O'Connell will succeed long-time Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who was relieved of his duties following Minnesota's failure to qualify for the postseason. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh interviewed for the job on Wednesday, but the Vikings reportedly never made an offer to the Wolverines' head honcho, a move that prompted Harbaugh to inform Michigan that he plans to return to the program for the 2022 season. It represents an extremely bold hire by new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who officially took charge of the Vikings in late January. Adofo-Mensah is often described as analytically driven in his approach to roster building and constructing, and has apparently hand-selected O'Connell as a leader that will share his views philosophically from a team-building perspective. It's worth noting Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell briefly crossed paths in San Francisco in 2016 when the former held the title of manager of football research and development and the latter was involved in their "special projects" department. A young up-and-comer, O'Connell represents a stark change in leadership from Zimmer's old-school traditional approach. The offensive-minded O'Connell now prepares to take charge of a Vikings roster that possesses several high-level offensive talents. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen make up one of the most fearful one-two punches in the league at the wide receiver position. Dalvin Cook is a devastating dual-threat running back that's worthy of building an offense around. O'Connell will be expected to do what the defensive-minded Zimmer often couldn't—get the most out of those talents. The 36-year-old O'Connell will represent the fourth assistant coach on Sean McVay's staff to become a head coach elsewhere over the past five seasons. O'Connell joins former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur (Green Bay), former quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor (Cincinnati), and former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers) as ex-McVay assistants to experience a meteoric rise up the metaphorical coaching ladder. Taylor will coach the Bengals against McVay and the Rams in Super Bowl LVI. LaFleur's Packers have been consistent contenders since his arrival in Lambeau, and the arrow is very much pointing up for Staley's Chargers. O’Connell will now hope to join what’s becoming a long line of success stories. McVay clearly possesses an uncanny ability to identify and hire coaching talent and competing franchises will continue to pluck talents from his ever-growing coaching tree. Current defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was considered a finalist for Minnesota’s job before O’Connell ultimately won out. Expect Morris to continue receiving head coaching looks as the puppet-master of Los Angeles’ dominant defense has rehabilitated his reputation. A former third-round pick of the New England Patriots in the 2008 NFL draft, O'Connell originally entered the NFL as Tom Brady's backup. O'Connell spent five years in the league as a journeyman quarterback before embarking on a coaching career that began as the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks coach in 2015. O'Connell's coaching journey quickly brought him to Washington, first as their quarterbacks coach and then as the team's offensive coordinator in 2019. O'Connell lasted just one season in our nation's capital before becoming McVay's offensive coordinator in 2020. Now just two short years later, O'Connell is ready to spread his wings and lead a franchise of his own. O'Connell certainly possesses an intriguing resume that's quickly grown and improved throughout the years. His work alongside McVay helped reestablish the Rams’ offense this season as Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp quickly became one of the more efficient and productive quarterback-receiver duos in the league. Kupp's transformation into the league's most productive receiver in 2021 reflects well on O'Connell’s coaching capabilities. The Vikings are trusting Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell to usher in a new and exciting era of Vikings football. Appointing the relatively inexperienced O'Connell qualifies as a sizable risk, especially when paired with a first-year GM, as both men will require some on-the-job training.
- May 20, 2022
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