Unsung Vikings Coach Has Had All His Men Ready to Play

Minnesota Vikings fans celebrate their win. The New York Giants lose to the Minnesota Vikings, 28-10, in NFL Week 5 on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford. © Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The Minnesota Vikings’ roster has been decimated by injuries this season. No matter. The next man up philosophy has been in full effect in Minnesota. One unsung Vikings coach has had all his guys ready to play.

Unsung Vikings Coach Has Had All His Men Ready to Play

That man is wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. When Justin Jefferson went down with a hamstring injury, the immediate feeling was it would be terminal for the Vikings season. The 1-4 Vikings season seemed to be slipping away, but despite even more devastating injury news — Kirk Cousins — the Vikings are rolling with a five-game win streak. There are a lot of factors as to why the Vikings have managed to be successful in the face of so much adversity.

Unsung Vikings Coach
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.

Plenty has been written about the Vikings’ head coach Kevin O’Connell — the defense orchestrated by defensive coordinator Brian Flores, and the heroics on the field of new QB Josh Dobbs.

It’s time to heap some praise on McCardell.

Rookie Jordan Addison stepped up when Jefferson went down, as did K.J. Osborn, who had been struggling for form early in the season. When Osborn went down with a concussion against the Falcons in Week 9, it was Brandon Powell’s turn to step forward and make some plays. 

Jalen Nailor returned from injury in Week 10 to catch his only target for 16 yards, and even Trishton Jackson has hauled in a couple of catches in recent weeks. The Vikings’ WR depth suddenly looks deep, and that doesn’t happen without good coaching. The first-round drafts were expected to be good, but the depth comes from Day 3 picks in Osborn and Nailor and two undrafted players picked up in free agency in Powell and Jackson.

Who Is Keenan McCardell?

McCardell was a WR drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 12th round of the 1991 draft with the 326th pick. Washington won the Super Bowl that year, but the rookie had no playing time. He was cut after the 1991 season. From such humble beginnings, an impressive career sprouted. McCardell moved to Cleveland and steadily improved as a player over four seasons. Then came the move that changed his career: four 1000-yard seasons in six years in Jacksonville. 

1 Beloved Vikings Coach
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

Next came two seasons in Tampa Bay, including his finest hour, scoring two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXVII, beating the AFC champion Oakland Raiders 48-21. He finished his career with a stint at San Diego and a return to Washington. McCardell became Washington’s wide receivers coach in 2010 and had the same role at Maryland and Jacksonville before being hired by the Vikings in 2021.

When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell became the new general manager and head coach in 2022. Every position coach that the Vikings employed was released — except McCardell. Having only been with the team for one year, McCardell wasn’t engrained as a “Mike Zimmer guy.” He had also impressed enough in his season in Minnesota that he was highly sought after. The Vikings made sure to keep him on board, and it was an important early move that has paid dividends.

The Future

McCardell’s coaching ability didn’t go unnoticed when a new regime came into Minnesota, and it won’t go unnoticed by the rest of the league. There have already been some tentative offensive coordinator links during his time in Minnesota. The more success Vikings receivers continue to have, the more likely McCardell’s name will be in the frame when OC positions become available.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Such is life in the NFL. You need good coaches to be successful, but with that success comes other teams wishing to give them a promotion. McCardell is well on the way to earning those opportunities three seasons into his run in Minnesota. Unless the Vikings OC suddenly gets some head coach buzz, those opportunities will likely be away from the Twin Cities. 

For now, he will continue working to make the Vikings wide receiver group among the best in the league —something he has been doing an excellent job at.