Wednesday, May 4, 2022

How Kevin O'Connell Can Change the Vikings

On January 12th, 2017, the Los Angeles Rams made history by naming Sean McVay as their head coach. The hiring of the youngest head coach in NFL history ushered veteran coach Jeff Fisher out of the league where he has remained since 2016. The subsequent success of the Rams post Jeff Fisher era seems to have paved the way for other franchises willing to take the same risk on a young head coach. More and more owners seem to be realizing the importance of a young and innovative mind at a time when the NFL is rapidly changing and evolving. If Sean McVay's personal track record or his widespread coaching tree is any indication of what's to come, Viking fans have a lot to look forward to.

The adaptability of Sean McVay and his former assistant coaches such as Zac Taylor, Matt Lafleur, Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell is what separates them from the same, continuously recycled coaches that originated from the previous generation of talent. These new coaches don’t seem thick-skulled or egotistical but instead play to the strengths of their roster. They get a reputation for bonding well with players which is why they are able to install the ‘winning culture’ that is frequently talked about when discussing successful teams.

A similarity between Sean McVay and his former coaches is their frequent execution of a spread offense with a three wide receiver set. We can observe this especially with Brandon Staley of the Chargers and Zac Taylor of the Bengals. This type of offensive game plan directly benefits Minnesota. Giving Kirk Cousins more time to show off his arm may finally be a priority and the frequent involvement of three wide receivers could revolutionize the offense. Spreading two elite route runners like Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen out would prove beneficial and I love KJ Osborn this year to see a huge uptick in playing time. There is also good reason to trust Coach O'Connell to maximize Dalvin Cook's usage while keeping him healthy. Last year as OC of the Rams O'Connell often had two backs splitting touches, which could point towards him doing the same in Minnesota, in order to avoid driving a potent offensive weapon like Cook into the ground.

The hiring of Kevin O’Connell happened at a time when the Vikings may have needed it most. Despite a talented roster the franchise seemed in a rut for years under former coach Mike Zimmer and former GM Rick Spielman. The excitement surrounding new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is palpable as he too seems to be changing the culture in the building while putting Minnesota in a great position to succeed. This combined with the hiring of Kevin O’Connell seems to have brought a much needed freshness to the franchise.

With the multitude of young offensive minds being hired as head coaches this offseason (Mike McDaniel, Brian Daboll, etc.) I firmly believe that the direction of the league is becoming more and more offensively geared and if you don’t jump on board soon you might miss the train. Luckily, Minnesota seems to have found their guy.


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