Vegas Has an Odd Beef with Kevin O’Connell

Vegas Has an Odd Beef with Kevin O'Connell
Kevin O'Connell

A first-year head coach, taking over a team with a 15-18 (.454) record in two years before his arrival should garner honest-to-goodness Coach of the Year attention after his team started the season 12-3 (.800), right?

Think again.

Vegas Has an Odd Beef
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

That rookie skipper is Kevin O’Connell, and his Minnesota Vikings share the NFL’s second-best record through 16 weeks. Minnesota is 11-0 in one-score games, currently owns the No. 2 seed in the NFC’s evolving playoff picture, and has won the NFC North with weeks to spare in the regular season. But for Vegas oddsmakers, O’Connell’s feats don’t do the trick.

Vegas Has an Odd Beef with Kevin O’Connell

Even with the fancy record, O’Connell is a relative underdog to win Coach of the Year gold. And truth be told, he should be near the top of the list. These are the current favorites to take home CotY:

  • Nick Sirianni = -175
  • Kyle Shanahan = +260
  • Doug Pederson = +950
  • Brian Daboll = +1700
  • Zac Taylor = +2000
  • Dan Campbell = +3000
  • Kevin O’Connell = +4000
  • Mike McCarthy = +10000
Kevin O'Connell Hints More Playing Time for 2 Vikings Defenders
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

We know what you’re thinking. Seventh-place. What in the world? Or what the —- with other words intermixed. The problem is that there is no rational explanation for O’Connell’s dumbfounding underdog status. The other guys are good NFL coaches, but most aren’t in their maiden voyage vying for a No. 2 seed in the postseason.

If one had to guess why O’Connell is deep underwater, it must be the perpetual narrative about the Vikings as “frauds.” Per some statistical metrics, Minnesota ranks in the bottom half of the league per team efficiency. Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric calls the Vikings the NFL’s eighth-worst team through Week 16 despite the second-best win-loss record. To put it bluntly, some mathematical metrics and NFL pundits believe the Vikings are fluky frauds, destined to lose early in the postseason.

Vikings Have Tied
Kevin O’Connell

The weird part is that the Coach of the Year honor has nothing to do with the playoffs, as voting is conducted before the postseason ends. Therefore, based on wins and losses and O’Connell’s first-year title, the man should at least grace the Top 3 of Vegas odds.

But no cigar.

And so it goes — the 2022 Vikings continue a quest of apparent overachievement and luck throughout 12 wins in 15 games. It’s the only tangible thing available to explain O’Connell’s strange betting line.

Also, an adage applies here — one that holds weight. “Vegas knows” or “Vegas doesn’t lie” are popular slogans involving sportsbetting. It might be tempting to say, “Well, those odds are wrong.” But that’s not the way it works. Sportsbooks already know O’Connell won’t win Coach of the Year — and won’t get any attention amid the race — and have assigned the lowly odds accordingly.

Like most aspects of the “are the Vikings for real?” debate, none of this matters too much unless O’Connell really, really wants the award. He can merely execute a playoff run culminating in a Super Bowl triumph, an outcome that would assuredly supersede Coach of the Year voting.

Still, it’s odd that men like Dan Campbell and Zac Taylor have a better chance of winning the award than the 12-3 Vikings boss.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).