Kevin O’Connell Could Be Eyeing Some Hardware

Explained: State of the Vikings thru 8 Weeks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

When his team finished 13-4 during his first year on the job, the group was called “fraudulent” by many.

Accordingly, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell received no serious Coach of the Year buzz as a rookie skipper in 2022, and the COTY hardware was shipped to New Jersey into the waiting hands of New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll.

Kevin O’Connell Could Be Eyeing Some Hardware

Fast forward one year, and Daboll’s Giants look utterly rudderless, ravaged by injuries, and incompetent when healthy. On the other hand, O’Connell’s team is heading in the opposite direction, barnstorming the sport in the last five weeks to the tune of five wins, even when the Vikings best player, Justin Jefferson, was set on the shelf with a hamstring injury.

Could Be Eyeing Some
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, Daboll repeating as COTY — he could actually be on the hot seat before too long — is laughable, and O’Connell has emerged as a favorite to win the award.

According to sportsbooks, these are the live COTY odds as of November 15th:

  • Dan Campbell (Lions) — +140
  • DeMeco Ryans (Texans) — +330
  • Kevin O’Connell (Vikings) — +450
  • Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) — +600
  • Mike Tomlin (Steelers) — +1300
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

O’Connell’s path to the accolade is achievable, too. If his team can catch the Detroit Lions for the NFC North — it is 1.5 games behind at the moment — O’Connell would almost certainly get the nod over Campbell. Meanwhile, Ryans in Houston absolutely deserves COTY consideration, but his squad likely has to reach the playoffs as a prerequisite, which may be a longshot in the crowded AFC field.

What’s more, generalized momentum for O’Connell as the league’s top coach is swirling. The Athletic‘s Dianna Russini tweeted Monday, “KOC is COY and I can’t be swayed.”

Former Pro Bowler turned ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark tweeted after the Vikings win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, “Kevin O’Connell is not being talked about enough for what he’s doing in Minnesota. The season started with extremely tough losses & they have rebounded from 0-3. Now, 1 of the hottest teams in ball, even without their best player and franchise QB. That’s high level leadership.”

Vikings Viewed in Same
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, the Vikings 1-4 start did O’Connell no favors, and ultimately, he was accountable for the lousy 2023 introduction. Yet, the way O’Connell has reversed his fortune without the aforementioned Jefferson or Kirk Cousins, who hit injured reserve a few weeks ago, is remarkable.

Somehow, the Vikings became better, at least per wins and losses, without Jefferson — a mind-boggling accomplishment that still isn’t fully understandable and must be a testament to O’Connell’s leadership.

Vikings Set a Mind
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

Next on the agenda for O’Connell and the Vikings are the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. Denver is 4-5 through Week 10 and is curiously favored to beat Minnesota by a field goal.

Bud Grant is the only Vikings head coach to win the AP Coach of the Year award — 54 years ago.


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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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