Five Vikings Thoughts: Bizarro World for K/O, Christmas Cardigans, & Flips for Flores
At times, the news can pile up with the Minnesota Vikings. Stepping back to offer a quick-hitter piece — the five Vikings thoughts — allows for some efficiency when covering several pertinent purple topics.
Going into Week 15 at 7-6, the Vikings are in the middle of the playoff race in the NFC. Being able to get a ticket for the final tournament is what everyone is interested in discussing. Basically everything surrounding the Vikings right now comes back to that central goal: getting into the postseason and seeing if a sizzlin’ hot Minnesota defense can put together some magic. Let’s see what the week has brought to the fore.
Five Vikings Thoughts: 12.14.2023
#1 — Kevin O’Connell is Getting Dangerously Close to Bizarro World
Before Kevin O’Connell, there was Mike Zimmer.
The older and crustier head coach specialized in defensive football. And, to be sure, the approach under Zimmer led to some tremendous success, with the high point coming in 2017 behind an elite group that caused headaches on a near weekly basis.
One indictment of Zimmer, though, was that he never had much continuity at offensive coordinator. At times, the issue was poor performance (Norv Turner, John DeFilippo), being too successful (Kevin Stefanski, Pat Shurmur), and even retirement (Gary Kubiak). Klint Kubiak, Zimmer’s other OC, got canned alongside the head coach. The younger Kubiak did fine, but his offense wasn’t spectacular.
Fast forward into Vikings football with O’Connell taking the lead. He hired Ed Donatell for the 2022 season, but the DC ended up getting fired due to leading an incredibly bland, ineffective defense. The 2023 defensive coordinator — Mr. Brian Flores — is likely going to be a one-and-done in Minnesota. The man deserves to be a head coach, so seeing anything less than that outcome would qualify as a pretty major shock.
The end result will (very likely) be O’Connell moving onto his third DC in as many seasons. Bizarro World for the Vikings and their new skipper. Is there any way the Vikings can convince Flores to stick around?
#2 — Nick Mullens Gives a Shout Out to Kirk Cousins for His Cardigans
Ah, yes, Kirk Cousins. He’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Originally, I learned about the odd shout out to Cousins’
drip fashion choice through Will Goodwin, who shares his wisdom via writing for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. Take a peak at the Mullens quote about Cousins (as transcribed by Goodwin): “He brings great energy talking football, talking life, talking Christmas cardigans that he’s been wearing. He brings great energy to the building, so anytime you can have 8 around it’s awesome.”
At this point, is anyone surprised that Mr. Cousins loves Christmas cardigans? What would be more surprising is if he didn’t. Personally, I think Christmas socks are the way to go, but my fashion preferences are neither here nor there. The real fashion icon within the Vikings’ orbit is Cousins (obviously).
#3 — Brian Flores is Looking for More Back Flips
Join the club, Flores.
The DC spoke to the media on Tuesday, as is his wont. Predictably, Ivan Pace was brought into the conversation since the UDFA is coming off of a tremendous effort against the Raiders. Brian Flores is among those who are not only impressed by the level of play but also the celebration.
“I’m good with the back flip,” Flores notes, “I was shocked.” The coach even says that he’s hoping Pace “has a reason to do more back flips.”
Indeed. Seeing some more acrobatics from Pace would mean things are continuing to go well for the man who (at least according to the league’s 32 GMs) wasn’t good enough to be drafted. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah found a diamond in the rough and Brian Flores has done a great job of shining. All Pace has done in 2023 is sparkle.
#4 — Wes Phillips Owns Up to His Major Mistake
Seeing a coach get dinged with a DWI is very, very discouraging. The hope is certainly that someone in such a prominent position won’t make such a careless mistake, but that wasn’t the case for Wes Phillips.
The offensive coordinator was arrested last Friday. Minnesota still allowed him to coach in Week 14.
Phillips was upfront about his willingness to accept whatever repercussions arise (presser link). “I do understand that as a coach in this league,” Phillips notes, “there are certain standards from the NFL and from the Minnesota Vikings. And I didn’t live up to those standards.” The coach then goes on to speak about being accountable: “I do believe in being accountable, and learning from your mistakes. Accepting whatever discipline may come down the road.”
Not too long afterwards, Phillips said that he’ll “keep coaching until they tell me otherwise.”
Before too long, the Vikings and/or the NFL will decide on some sort of repercussion. Until then, Phillips will help the Minnesota Vikings in their playoff push. And, for whatever it’s worth, the man is owning his mistake and willing to accept what transpires in terms of a consequence.
#5 — JJets Ready for Takeoff
Another week, another bit of uncertainty about the health of Justin Jefferson. Thankfully, things look considerably more optimistic.
The NFL’s WR1 had to miss seven games due to a hamstring injury that occurred in Week 5. Minnesota managed to win more than they lost in Jefferson’s absence, but the recent losses have certainly pointed to the ongoing need to have Mr. Jefferson on the field.
The hard hit from Raiders safety Marcus Epps forced Jefferson out of the game in Las Vegas. Even worse, Jefferson had to be taken to the hospital to ensure there wasn’t any internal bleeding or broken ribs.
Jefferson explained that the fine folks at the Las Vegas hospital took good care of him. He avoided major injury and is going to be ready to go for Week 15 in Cincinnati. There should have been no need for added motivation given the playoff push, but the missed time in the Raiders game should function as even more inspiration to put together some dominant efforts to conclude the season.
Seeing the Justin Jefferson and Nick Mullens connection thrive in the coming weeks will go a long way in making the season’s 1-4 a distant memory. Upward and onward for Mr. Jefferson.
Editor’s Note: A shout out to Max Bultman, the best Red Wings writer out there, for the “Five Thoughts” format idea.
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K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.