Kevin O’Connell Wants His Leadership Emulated

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Kevin O'Connell

The Minnesota Vikings were a good team last year, judging by their 13-4 record. While that included plenty of inconsistency, the record was largely a reflection of their leadership. Now Kevin O’Connell is looking for his leadership to be emulated on the field.

Kevin O’Connell Wants His Leadership Emulated

Going into last season, it seemed to reason that Minnesota could change its fortunes on the field through a different type of leadership. Mike Zimmer’s style had grown stale, and it was clear that the players on the field weren’t responding or developing as they had once done. With O’Connell not only bringing an offensive focus, but a younger leadership style, there was hope a corner could be turned.

Wants His Leadership
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

With adversity presented to them during more than a handful of games last year, O’Connell was able to get the most from his team. Extracting the highest level of their play to complete comebacks and answer uphill situations, the Vikings squeaked out 13 wins despite putting one of the worst defenses in the league on the field. They addressed the defensive leadership situation by bringing in Brian Flores to take over as coordinator, but after plenty of departures, he will need to develop a new cast of trusted players to run his unit.

Now with several critical producers gone, O’Connell wants leadership to be shown by others stepping up. Za’Darius Smith immediately had one foot out the door, and Eric Kendricks needed an upgrade. Patrick Peterson took his talents elsewhere, and Dalvin Tomlinson vacated the middle of the defensive line. Opportunity has presented itself for O’Connell’s players to lead, as he and new defensive coordinator Brian Flores will attempt to do.

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

In a recent article from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, O’Connell said, “… you’re filling a void of some players that aren’t here anymore, that were here since you’ve been here. And you’ve become the player you’ve become, maybe because of the exposure to those guys. Now it’s, Can you take your own personal leadership to the next level and help guide this team? And, time and time again, in those conversations, it’s something that those players are excited about.”

It’s not just the defense that presents opportunity. Although Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson remain, Adam Thielen is gone, and Dalvin Cook could soon be as well. O’Connell is an offensive mind, and while he’ll have plenty of focus for that side of the ball, seeing Jefferson and Alexander Mattison take new reigns for their personal accountability would be a great thing. Bringing along a new starter like Jordan Addison is a must, and T.J. Hockenson continuing to lead as a mentor for those around him should happen as well.

Only 2 Options
Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFC tight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings (87) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Leadership and resolve are often critical factors in overcoming adversity. The Vikings, under O’Connell, seemed unfazed when up against long odds last year directly impacted the win column. Developing more players on the field with that mindset could go a long way to avoiding regression in 2023.

With a new set of leadership coming in at both the general manager and head coach positions a season ago, turnover seemed inevitable. O’Connell took his time evaluating who made sense for the long haul and appreciated those who had been here. Now looking to mold the team in his image further, it will be in creating new leaders that his impact is ultimately felt.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.