Kevin O’Connell Gets the CNN Treatment

Should Have Optimism
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

At least for a day, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell received mainstream media attention.

Outside the typical boundaries of sports media, O’Connell chatted with CNN last week, discussing an array of topics that shed light on O’Connell, the man.

Kevin O’Connell Gets the CNN Treatment

O’Connell spoke with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday, and she point-blank asked the coach why he’s “so nice.” On brand, O’Connell replied, “When you build things the right way and people trust you, they know you’re going to be the same guy every day. They know you’re going to hold them accountable… and it might be one of our captains pulling a younger player aside. The players are carving their own identity and imprint into the team.”

Gets the CNN
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The Vikings are 20-14 (.588) on O’Connell’s watch, the ninth-best record in the NFL. During his maiden voyage in 2022, Minnesota won the NFC North for the first time in five years. This season, however, was different, finishing 7-10 after quarterback Kirk Cousins was lost for the year with a torn Achilles in October.

Harlow also asked O’Connell about his ability to lead with love and empathy, and he opined, “It’s what I view as the standard and first things first is you have to have a world where you’ve got to be willing to be vulnerable enough to say the word ‘love,’ to say, ‘We do this because we love our brothers,’ and when you use that term, I think it takes these guys to a place where they think about brotherhood and teammates and what that means to them, almost as a family member.”

Mismanaged the QB
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

O’Connell was hired two years ago to change the Vikings’ culture, which had become stale and prickly in 2021. Minnesota cleaned house after the 2021 campaign, firing the general manager and head coach, paving the way for an analytics-based and collaborative focus sponsored by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, O’Connell’s boss and current Vikings general manager.

The young coach also talked about his family and children, particularly: “There’s times where I’m tired, I’m exhausted, and all I want to do is just sit down and not think about football … But then it’s time to go play football in the basement and that’s their Super Bowl. That’s what matters, it’s their time with dad. The moment I ever get to where I don’t have the energy and the focus to give them everything that they need, I won’t do this job anymore.”

falcons tilt
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O’Connell’s Vikings embark on an ultra-pivotal offseason, needing to decide on a quarterback plan for the future, as the aforementioned Cousins is scheduled to hit free agency in six weeks. If the franchise opts not to extend him, it would enter a brave new world, presumably with a rookie quarterback, and O’Connell’s big task would be front and center — the former NFL quarterback developing a quarterback.

O’Connell also told Harlow about Tom Bray’s role in his personal development, “He sure was a part of me learning and creating my beliefs … In my case, some of the greatest football minds, whether it’s Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Sean McVay, the list goes on, have impacted me.”

no quit
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

After the recent head coaching carousel, O’Connell is the league’s third-youngest HC behind Jerod Mayo (New England Patriots) and Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams).

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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