Kevin O‘Connell Names New Backup QB

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell after the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

It has been a tumultuous time in Minnesota. The team started 1-4 into their 2023 season. Of course, coming off a 13-4 campaign is a huge bummer for the fan base. However, the record isn’t the only disappointing development in the organization, as star wideout Justin Jefferson will miss at least four games on injured reserve because of a hamstring issue.

Kevin O’Connell Names New Backup QB

Names New backup

The replacement of Jefferson is impossible. No team replaces a one-of-a-kind athlete like the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. It will be a team effort. K.J. Osborn has to live up to his offseason hype, and expensive tight end T.J. Hockenson will get a huge amount of passes thrown in his direction. Rookie Jordan Addison will likely function as the new top wide receiver, a role he partially filled in Week 5 with six catches for 64 yards and his third touchdown of the season.

While replacing a receiver can be a team effort, replacing a quarterback is the task of one guy. Kirk Cousins continues as the team’s starter despite the league-wide talk about a potential trade. His backup, Nick Mullens, has been placed on IR and is out like Jefferson for at least the next four games.

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) looks to throw the ball as Tennessee Titans linebacker Thomas Rush (48) pursues and offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (79) blocks during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

To fill the new opening behind Cousins, the Vikings worked out veteran journeyman Colt McCoy on Tuesday, but he hasn’t signed with the organization. On Wednesday, the purple team added old friend Sean Mannion to the practice squad to have at least one experienced player on the team. The other remaining signal-caller under contract is rookie Jaren Hall, and head coach Kevin O’Connell wants him to take over as the new QB2. He was asked on Wednesday during his media availability if he would take over that role:

Yeah, Jaren is going to be the number two. He was last week. [I] thought he did a really nice job in his preparation with Chris (O’Hara, QB coach) and Grant (Udinski, assistant‘s QB coach) and we would go in with a slightly modified plan for him as we move forward, just where he can have total ownership of what I would call if he were to be called into action.

But I think it‘s great for him, all part of that development that we‘ve talked about the different phases of it from being that emergency third guy throughout these first four or five weeks to now shifting in a role where he‘s really a snap away and how does his preparation match that.

It‘s been really strong for a young guy finding his weekly rhythm and we‘ll keep supporting him and helping him grow every day and getting reps versus our defense in practice is certainly a good thing for him dealing with running the show and some of the thing our defense consistently to apply pressure on the quarterback. I think all of that is leading to a place where he‘s just having daily growth and development so he‘ll be the number two.

Kevin O‘Connell

Hall was drafted in the fifth round and has always been a long shot to be the long-term answer after the eventual departure of Cousins. In the preseason, he mostly struggled but also showcased his talent in a few plays in each of the three games.

With Mullens having to miss time, he is much closer to having to step on the NFL field than two weeks ago. Hall was a decent player at BYU, throwing for 52 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions while adding nine scores and 800 yards on the ground.

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) hands the ball off to running back Abram Smith (41) against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

O’Connell has been significantly involved in his development from the get-go as he is the first QB prospect he is working with as a head coach. At the end of the day, it is not a big difference if a veteran or Hall replaces Cousins in the 2023 season in case of an injury, as the team is not in a position to function without its passer.

The trust the coaching staff is putting in Hall is encouraging for the passer’s future, and it is quite the opposite of how Mike Zimmer and his staff handled Kellen Mond in 2021.

Hall is 25 years old and threw one touchdown and one interception in the preseason.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt