It Turns Out Justin Jefferson Went to Bat for One Vikings Coach

Justin Jefferson insulted
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Remember when the Minnesota Vikings ownership cleaned house after the 2021 season and only retained one coach from the previous regime?

It was Keenan McCardell, a former NFLer turned wide receivers coach, who stayed aboard when the franchise transitioned from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell.

It Turns Out Justin Jefferson Went to Bat for One Vikings Coach

McCardell remains the team’s wide receivers coach, and almost two years removed from retention, folks learned this week that Justin Jefferson had a lot to do with his longevity.

Jefferson Went to Bat
Minnesota Vikings Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. McCardell joined the Vikings in 2021 as wide receivers coach and is credited with helping to develop Justin Jefferson and others.

Decked out in flashy sunglasses, Jefferson told James Palmer of NFL Network on Tuesday, “When Mike Zimmer left, and coach Kevin O’Connell came, that was one of the things I requested was for him to stay with us. I love him as a person. I love him as a coach. It’s been great to have him teach me different things throughout the season.”

Too, the Vikings are lucky to have McCardell this season. The New England Patriots interviewed him during the annual coaching carousel 11 months ago but ultimately hired Bill O’Brien. New England now has a 3-11 record and has been eliminated from postseason contention.

Injury Outlook Is Better
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

“Having a person like him that played in the league, 17 years, knows the feeling of being out there on the field, knows the injuries, knows the circumstances […] It’s great to have him there with us,” Jefferson added.

Here’s the full clip:

Mentioned in the tweet above, it’s no surprise that rookie Jordan Addison is blossoming with McCardell’s tutelage, either. Minnesota has a long and rich history in drafting, onboarding, and developing wide receivers, so employing McCardell as the leader makes sense. Addison has tabulated nine receiving touchdowns in 2023, most among rookies.

You Should Prepare
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Moreover, Jefferson’s emphatic McCardell endorsement isn’t new. Former Viking Adam Thielen echoed a similar sentiment in 2022. “I’m kinda hoping coach McCardell stays around because that’s the kind of guy he is,” Thielen mentioned during the Zimmer-O’Connell transition.

Thielen now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

Team in Football per
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“He really made me a better football player this year, and for that reason. If you did something really well, he expected that out of you. He would tell you, ‘That is the standard, this is what we’re looking for right here.’ And if you didn’t meet that standard, he would let you know and say ‘C’mon, what are you doing? We need more out of you.’ So I’m hoping he stays around. I’m standing on the table for him, because he made us, as a receiver unit, better football players,” Thielen said about two years ago.

McCardell may not stay in Minnesota for too long — he deserves an offensive coordinator job — but he has assuredly helped Jefferson become a phenom. And so far, Addison isn’t too far behind.

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).

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