Kevin O’Connell Wasn’t Lying about Culture

The Minnesota Vikings changed general managers and head coaches about 14 months ago, and on the agenda for “the new guys” was a fundamental cultural upheaval.

And the pairing of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell delivered. There’s evidence.

Kevin O’Connell Wasn’t Lying about Culture

Just before the 2022 regular season kicked off, GoLongTD’s Tyler Dunne reported about O’Connell and the Vikings culture shift, “After first declaring that the Vikings would change the culture — three words surgically drilled into the skulls of players since the sport’s inception — O’Connell articulated exactly what that’d mean here.”

Lying about Culture
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell celebrates the win after the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“He declared to all in the room that ‘player ownership’ would drive the Vikings,” Dunne wrote.

Fast forward to March 2023, and in hindsight, O’Connell effectuated the paradigm shift in the locker room. The Vikings won the NFC North for the first time since 2017 on the back of a 13-4 record, the best by a first-year Vikings coach in franchise history. And for posterity, Minnesota ranked at the top of the league this week via the NFLPA’s first annual “team report cards.”

Over 1,300 players were asked to vote on these criteria for each NFL team:

  • Treatment of families
  • Good service/nutrition
  • Weight room
  • Strength coaches
  • Training room
  • Training staff
  • Locker room
  • Team travel

The Vikings scored an A+ and set the gold standard, with the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders close behind. The NFLPA described the origins of the new report cards, “During the last two years, the board of representatives has discussed ways to improve the information available to free agents making decisions about their prospective clubs and decided to pursue the development of “club report cards” that, while not a scientific survey, would report the quantitative and qualitative opinions of NFL players about their respective clubs.”

Overrated Combine
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

“The club report card includes an overview, which is a summary of the players’ responses and opinions about the club workplace and specifically about how players perceived clubs’ commitment to workplace issues,” the NFLPA concluded about the new accountability initiative.

Here’s how the Vikings scored across the board.

Image Courtesy of Adam Awes on Twitter.

Not bad.

Some six months before the new grades were released, Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter told Dunne about Minnesota’s new culture shift, “Players wake up, and they want to come to work. They’re not worried too much. They just wake up and want to play football. That’s the main thing. Young guys are eager to learn. Older guys are able to teach the younger guys. It’s a good overall atmosphere.”

And in the flesh, in the form of NFLPA grades, the Vikings leadership not only talked the talk, they walked the walk.

Our Official Staff Playoff
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell greets players during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

When Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell selected their inaugural draft pick together last April, Adofo-Mensah called the draftee, Lewis Cine, and said, “We’re a building full of dream chasers, do you want come chase dreams with us?”

And chasing those dreams evidently occurs with the team featuring the finest accommodations, family treatment, and culture in the NFL.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by