MINNEAPOLIS - We’re going to have to wait until after the Super Bowl for it to be official, but it appears L.A. Rams’ offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is set to be the 10th head coach in the history of the Minnesota Vikings.
Wednesday marked a crucial and busy day at TCO Performance Center. The Vikings’ ownership group was interviewing its fourth and last finalist, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. By about dinner time, ESPN had reported Harbaugh had contacted officials at Michigan, saying after the interview he was returning to the Wolverines for the 2022 season. Harbaugh to the Vikings seemed to be all but a done deal Tuesday night.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin O'Connell of the Los Angeles Rams participates in warmups prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 28, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Rams 36-28. ((Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images))
Harbaugh, a coach who had led the San Francisco 49ers to three NFC title games and one Super Bowl in four seasons, left the Vikings’ facility Wednesday without receiving a contract offer. The ownership group then reportedly contacted Patrick Graham and Raheem Morris, who they interviewed in-person, to tell them they were out of the running.
The Vikings met with O’Connell on Monday in L.A. He did enough to win them over.
So what are the Vikings potentially getting in O’Connell? Here is a small sample:
- O’Connell is 36 years old, and he’s an offensive-minded head coach. The days of controlling the game by running the ball keeping it close with defense appear to be over. He comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree, which includes Matt LaFleur at Green Bay, Brandon Staley with the Chargers and Zac Taylor in Cincinnati.
- O’Connell is a former quarterback, starting 21 games at San Diego State and was a four-year team captain. He was a third round pick by the New England Patriots in 2008. He spent three seasons with Kirk Cousins in Washington as the quarterbacks’ coach. With O’Connell as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, Matthew Stafford is headed to his first Super Bowl and Cooper Kupp is having an MVP-caliber season. It has all the feelings of Justin Jefferson becoming the go-to star of the Vikings’ offense.
- The Rams finished ninth in total offense in the NFL this season under O’Connell. They averaged 372 yards per game, were fifth in passing (273.1) and eighth in points (27.1).
- O’Connell has history with new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The two worked together with the 49ers in 2016. O’Connell was in special projects, Adofo-Mensah was in football research and development.
Vikings’ Owner and President Mark Wilf preached three things to take the franchise in a different direction after firing Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer on Jan. 10: Leadership, collaboration and communication. Adofo-Mensah won his introductory news conference preaching the same.
The Vikings are now being led by a 40-year-old front office head who started his career on Wall Street, and relies heavily on data, analytics and communication to make decisions. Adofo-Mensah is bringing in a 36-year-old coordinator who has been innovative with the Rams and will coach in his first Super Bowl next week.
It’s too early to know if the Adofo-Mensah/O’Connell pairing will work in Minnesota will lead to success. But the vision has changed. The days of controlling the game by running the ball and grinding on defense are gone. The grind and the approach will change, and the hope is that greatness comes with it.