Kevin O’Connell Must Fix Himself

The Deadliest Aspect
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Coming off a bye week and some additional time to right the ship after the disaster, which was a home game against the Chicago Bears, Kevin O’Connell coached much the same way he has for a few weeks.

Kevin O’Connell Must Fix Himself

Things didn’t start well for the Vikings in 2023, and the head coach helped turn the tide of the season, but it seems he is again getting in his own way.

After a truly terrible performance by the offense, Josh Dobbs, and Kevin O’Connell himself against the Bears, there was a lot of soul-searching and decision-making to be sorted through. The quarterback position would always be the focus, but O’Connell had necessary changes to look at across the board. Ultimately, he chose to stick with Dobbs as his signal caller, but little adjustment was made elsewhere.

Must fix himself
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It seems sensible that Dobbs would have been the quarterback to go with out of the bye. After all, he was still acclimating to a new team and offense on the fly. Given the extra preparation, the argument could have been made that he would feel the most settled compared to any other start. When Minnesota took the field, though, it was as if nothing had changed.

O’Connell has created handwringing and puzzling looks when dissecting his play calling for a couple of weeks. Despite choosing the mobile quarterback and putting him in shotgun, little was done to utilize his legs. Dobbs had ball placement issues all afternoon, and one of them ended Justin Jefferson’s return just three targets in. Moving him around would seemingly open bigger throwing lanes and provide opportunities to run, but that wasn’t part of the plan.

After watching Dobbs struggle for a full half, and struggle is putting it nicely, O’Connell decided he needed to see more. The expectation should have been that Nick Mullens would emerge from the locker room as the starting quarterback, but the head coach stuck with Dobbs. The Vikings couldn’t get anything going offensively, and it took even more of the ugliness in the second half to prompt a change.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Seeing O’Connell lead the Vikings team has been a breath of fresh air. He is a much more progressive communicator than Mike Zimmer was, and his style definitely leans more towards the new-age thinking that has permeated the NFL. That said, his lack of adjustments and continued insistence to double down on what hasn’t worked is beyond puzzling.

The Vikings running game went downhill even in the final year of Dalvin Cook, and it has been nowhere to be seen this year. Alexander Mattison hasn’t been good, but the decision to ignore the ground almost entirely doesn’t make much sense, either. O’Connell hasn’t made changes to a strategy that has left plenty to be desired for three weeks now, and knowing how perfect Minnesota must be the rest of the way, it doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence.

Warm Up to Nick
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Maybe a switch to Mullens at quarterback, who is more of the Cousins-style under center, helps O’Connell with how to attack a defense. It isn’t ideal to see how awful execution was with a mobile quarterback, especially if that ends up being the next draft pick, but no matter what the problem is, the head coach has to fix it.

If the Vikings are going to pull out an improbable victory against Jake Browning and the Bengals, everyone has to be better, and it starts at the top.

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.