KOC—The Real Deal or Real Lucky?

Vikings Territory Breakdown Podcast:

Kevin O’Connell finished his first season as an NFL head coach with a record of 13-4, an NFC North Division title for the Minnesota Vikings and a first-round exit in the playoffs. His rookie campaign was marked by a number of fourth-quarter, last-minute, come-from-behind victories (in fact, the team tied a league record with eight and broke one for the largest comeback against the Colts) punctuated by the incredible finish in Buffalo. So, the question we must ask then after this frenetic, exhilarating, bonkers first season is whether KOC is the real deal or did he just get really lucky last season.

It is a legitimate question. The Vikings, under the first-year tutelage of KOC and rookie GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah embarked on a “competitive rebuild” last season, which meant that they weren’t all-in on a rebuild (rare for a new regime) and were determined to run it back with most of the aging veterans they had, add a few rookies and see how far it would take them. It was fun, but in the end, the rebuild begins this season as the defense is being overhauled and will contain a number of new young faces. So, since this past offseason they jettisoned a number of big-name vets—Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Patrick Peterson, et. al.—due to their age and contracts, they are rebuilding now and that brings a number of questions surrounding the head coach:

  • *What are KOC’s strengths as a coach?
  • *What are his weaknesses?
  • *Did he get lucky in 2022 or was he better than we expected?
  • *He proved to be something of a risk-taker at the helm last season. Did it work out for him?
  • *What really makes a good coach? Instinct. Guts. Knowledge. Creativity. All of the above?
  • *In the days of analytics, how important is it to have a coach who believes in/uses them?
  • *What were some of KOC’s biggest calls?
  • *How would you grade KOC’s first season as a head coach?

We are going to ask those questions and more of Mark Craig, Vikings writer and NFL inside for the Star Tribune newspaper and startribune.com on the Vikings Territory Breakdown podcast. It will be a nice primer for the coming training camp and a good way to analyze how KOC does in his sophomore season. Tune in to check out what Craig comes up with.