1 Beloved Vikings Coach Might Stay in Minnesota

The Minnesota Vikings lost assistant quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson to the Houston Texans and assistant defensive line coach A’lique Terry to the University of Oregon this week, but one man might just stay put after all.

That’s Keenan McCardell, the franchise’s wide receivers coach and a universally-revered holdover from the Mike Zimmer era.

1 Beloved Vikings Coach
Jan 7, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell during the second half of the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Everbank Field. Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Buffalo Bills 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN’s Mike Garafolo tweeted Wednesday, “The Buccaneers are hiring Seahawks QB coach Dave Canales as their new offensive coordinator, sources say. After 13 seasons as an assistant on Pete Carroll’s coaching staff, Canales heads to Tampa to run the offense for Todd Bowles.”

1 Beloved Vikings Coach Might Stay in Minnesota

And that tidbit about the Buccaneers offensive coordinator is largely a nothingburger for Vikings fans, but McCardell was vying for the job, too. Unless another NFL team interviews McCardell rather late in the coaching carousel, all signs point to a third season for the former Jaguars wideout in Minnesota.

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Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

McCardell was also interviewed by Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots OC gig, but New England ultimately chose Bill O’Brien from the University of Alabama on January 24th.

The 53-year-old is beloved in the Vikings organization, especially by players and fans. When the franchise cleaned house with a new general manager and coaches last year, McCardell was the last man standing for coaching holdovers. Even respected personalities like Andre Patterson trekked to new teams. But McCardell stayed, pairing with O’Connell, a rookie head coach.

Nov 7, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) react after the play during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.

In Minnesota, McCardell has a pristine reputation — probably why New England and Tampa Bay entertained the thought of him as offensive coordinator. He’s credited with polishing Justin Jefferson, who won the NFL’s 2022 Offensive Player of the Year award. He also reportedly “pounded the table” during last year’s draft process for Jalen Nailor, Minnesota’s current WR4. The Vikings director of college scouting, Mike Sholiton, said about Nailor and McCardell last spring, “We’re always looking for guys that can finish and score. I know Keenan was in there pounding the table for him.”

During the transition to O’Connell in 2022, wide receiver Adam Thielen stated, “I’m kinda hoping coach McCardell stays around because that’s the kind of guy he is.”

Keenan McCardell
Keenan McCardell. Image Courtesy of KSTP Sports.

“He really made me a better football player this year, and for that reason. If you did something really well, he expected that out of you. [..] I’m standing on the table for him, because he made us, as a receiver unit, better football players.” Thielen added.

The Vikings might be in the market for a WR2 update this offseason, perhaps in the NFL draft. McCardell’s expertise along the way would be invaluable.

McCardell played a whopping 16 seasons in the NFL from 1992 to 2007 and is ranked 35th all-time via receiving yards in NFL history with 11,373.

Minnesota ranked eighth in the NFL via points scored last year.

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 OverTheCap.com.