Kevin O’Connell Is Running Out of Patience

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

After going 13-4 in the first season of Kevin O’Connell’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings, the fanbase had high expectations and wanted to build on that success. However, three weeks in, the purple team has already lost three games, and it will be a tough task to climb out of that hole to be in contention for a playoff spot later in the season.

Kevin O’Connell Is Running Out of Patience

is Running Out of Patience
Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell takes the field before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

No player should be singled out when determining the reasons for the losses, as all three defeats resulted from poor team performance. In close games, especially, the Vikings made crucial mistakes in big moments, and a couple of plays would’ve changed the results. However, those plays happened.

The most significant and unacceptable storyline of the 2023 Vikings is the turnovers. The Vikes have given up nine turnovers, seven fumbles, and two interceptions through three games.

Both interceptions were fluky plays that can but shouldn’t happen. On the other hand, the fumbles are unacceptable. Both the nine giveaways and the seven lost fumbles lead the league. In fact, only the Cleveland Browns gave up five fumbles, and no other team had more than three.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) fumbles the ball out of bounds in the end zone while being tackled by Philadelphia Eagles safety Terrell Edmunds (26) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Winning the turnover battle is an easy way to succeed in the NFL; the Vikings haven’t done that yet. Head coach O’Connell has been emphasizing the issue but is done with that and demands results. He spoke about the subject in Monday’s presser:

We need to end every snap with the football in our hands. And that’s going to be continued urgency and emphasis like it was last week and we’re going to continue to do it and do it differently and emphasize it in different ways until that value is received because that is a losing formula as we’ve seen being where we’re at in the turnover differential right now.

I think that’s something we’re going to fix it one way or another. Either guys are going to do it or we’re gonna have to put other guys in the game that have ball security.

Kevin O’Connell

The head coach is running out of patience. Rightfully so. It is unacceptable to end promising drives with turnovers. The Vikings rank third in yards but t-15th in points. They rank second in yards per play and have the third-fewest penalties on offense called against them, but just can’t finish drives.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Alexander Mattison (2) against the Los Angeles Chargers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And the turnovers are a big reason why. The problem is that the fumbles have been spread around. It is not one guy committing them. Alexander Mattison fumbled in Week 2. He did it twice, but the second one was called back because of a penalty. He also dropped the ball a couple of times in Week 3, but he was lucky that he was down once, and the play was stopped because of forward progress the other time.

Ball security used to be his strength, and he must be better. Cam Akers and Ty Chandler are waiting for their opportunity, and the coaches losing faith in the starter is a way to see the field.

Punt returner Brandon Powell also fumbled in Week 2 after a great punt return. Unfortunately, nobody will care about that return if he fumbles again. He looks comfortable fielding punts and has the ability to log some big plays, but ball security is critical.

Justin Jefferson fumbling the ball out of the endzone was a devasting and truly game-changing play, but he doesn’t have a history of fumbles, and he made some fantastic plays reaching for the endzone. Perhaps he will be a little more cautious in the future.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Chargers safety Alohi Gilman (32) strips the ball from Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end T.J. Hockenson committed the only lost fumble against the Chargers, and it ended his team’s first drive, a drive that looked promising and changed the momentum of the contest.

Kirk Cousins has been credited with three fumbles and two interceptions. Five turnovers are too much through three games. Adding context, however, changes that. Ed Ingram punched the ball out on a comical play in Week 1. The second fumble in that game came on a well-executed blitz. In Week 3, Josh Sweat had an easy pass-rush win against backup tackle Oli Udoh and stripped the ball.

Both interceptions were drops to some extent. The receivers had a chance, although the catches weren’t easy. Cousins deserves some blame, but none of the giveaways was an egregious mistake.

It will be fun to monitor how the coaching staff reacts after another turnover. Hopefully, the group can fix that issue and finally play clean football, but eventually, the next fumble will come at some point. It remains to be seen if O’Connell will start to bench people, especially the star players.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt