Did the Vikings Hire the Right Guy?
Back in 2022, after the Minnesota Vikings decided to move on from head coach Mike Zimmer, they cast a wide net. Ultimately, the franchise decided that Kevin O’Connell was the right choice to lead them into the future, but did they get the hire right?
Did the Vikings Hire the Right Guy?
Kevin O’Connell led his squad to an impressive 13-4 record while taking the NFC North division during his first season as the head man for the Minnesota Vikings. They racked up those victories despite long in-game odds at times, and with the amount of one-score games they won, there was a good deal of luck on their side.
Still, the New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll ultimately took home Coach of the Year honors. O’Connell certainly had nothing to hang his head about after his first season at the helm, but Daboll’s Giants ended the Vikings season with a road playoff victory thanks to an Ed Donatell defense that made Daniel Jones a ton of money.
Now, a second season through his tenure with Minnesota, there is a bit more to reflect on. At times, O’Connell drew the ire of the fanbase, even to the point of wanting him gone. That should have never been seen as anything but misguided, but there were definitely places for him to improve. The in-game management, playcalling, and mishandling of the quarterback position after Kirk Cousins’ injury all were stains. How he responds in 2024 will paint a clearer picture of his overall abilities.
One of the candidates that was considered by the Vikings when they were going through the interview process was now Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans. He concluded an initial conversation at the end of January 2022 and ultimately decided against the opening. Ryans wound up without a head coaching job in 2022 but took over for the Houston Texans before the 2023 season.
As Deshaun Watson was ushered out to Cleveland, and the Texans were seeking a new identity, Ryans had plenty to establish on his plate. Houston was coming off a 3-13-1 record and had serious question marks at the most important position in sports. Fortunately, they had ideal draft capital, but that also meant they needed to get it right.
Fast forward to this weekend: Not only will Ryans be the Coach of the Year for 2023, but his rookie signal caller, C.J. Stroud, just performed near-perfectly in his first playoff game. Houston crushed the Cleveland Browns while utilizing their homefield advantage, and Ryans continued his impressive debut season.
After an abysmal year prior to taking over, Ryans led the Texans to a 10-7 record, good enough to win the AFC South. Winning his first playoff game in such convincing fashion was another eye-opening result, and there have been a ton of them over the past handful of months. It’s probably unfair to talk so glowingly of a coach with a limited sample size, but if you’re worried about putting the best foot forward, it doesn’t get better than this.
Minnesota is content with what O’Connell has brought to the table thus far, and they should be. 2024 represents a pivotal point for the roster, franchise, and head coach, though, and he must show a new level if there is to be a continued belief going forward. O’Connell didn’t win the award in his first year but showed incredibly well. Ryans did win right away but must sustain that from now on.
We’ll have to wait a bit longer to determine which franchise got it right, but maybe the Vikings are wondering just a little bit right now.
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.