How Often Did Kevin O’Connell Mismanage the QB Carousel?

Mismanaged the QB
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Kirk Cousins was viewed as a candidate to have his best season as he finally had a second season with an offensive play-caller for the first time in Minnesota. Indeed, he was starting to get some recognition as he produced wonderful numbers even without Justin Jefferson and led his team to a primetime victory versus the 49ers.

How Often Did Kevin O’Connell Mismanage the QB Carousel?

How Often Did Kevin O'Connell Mismanage the QB Carousel?
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Perhaps the best and most impressive game of his career was followed by a blowout win in Lambeau Field. On a routine dropback, Cousins was pressured, he stepped out of the pocket and ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his and presumably Minnesota’s season.

In the following nine games, the Vikings would be in line for a chaotic signal-caller medley with none of the guys playing well enough to keep the starting gig. With backup Nick Mullens on IR–he was recovering from a back injury–the Vikings decided to trade for Cardinals starter Joshua Dobbs as Kyler Murray was about to return from his absence.

One Clue Why
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Dobbs only had a little time with his new team, and O’Connell decided to start rookie Hall. He prepared all week, and his superior knowledge of the scheme made him the obvious choice. Early in the game, the scripted plays made Hall look like a superstar as he marched down the field, hitting every pass he was supposed to.

A concussion knocked him out of the game, and Dobbs-mania took off. The Passtronaut guided the Vikings to unlikely victories over the Falcons and the Saints, and he slowly turned into some kind of rockstar. He then had a slower game against the Broncos but has earned enough credit to stay in the top spot on the depth chart.

Bad Luck Meter
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In another primetime showing, the Vikings faced the Bears, and the journeyman threw four interceptions, which was quite the disaster. His turnover problems were obvious at this point, and the team struggled to lead an effective offense. He was misreading plays, and the majority of his throws were late or inaccurate. With the approaching bye week, a QB change would’ve been a serious option, as the new guy had a couple of weeks to prepare.

But O’Connell stuck with the hero from the Falcons game. Facing the emerging Raiders defense, Dobbs and the Vikings had a true nightmare game on offense. After three quarters, they had not committed a turnover, but the scoreboard also showed zeroes. Nick Mullens replaced Dobbs in the final quarter, leading the team to a game-winning field goal after hitting a couple of tough throws in tight windows. The receivers that dropped a bunch of Dobbs’ passes suddenly made the catches.

found a new low
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Dobbs couldn’t lead an effective offense, and it inexplicably got worse as he started to learn the playbook. Playing him over Mullens in Las Vegas was O’Connell’s first mistake. He wanted to be the first coach with faith in Dobbs, but he couldn’t repay him.

Of course, Mullens would get the next shot to lead the team in Cincinnati. He piloted the offense to 424 total yards and 24 points despite a pair of terrible INTs. A defensive breakdown and the two turnovers ultimately helped the Bengals to come away with the win.

Because he gave his playmakers chances to produce, and the offense was working much better than with Dobbs, he kept his gig for the divisional showdown against the Lions. Once again, the passing attack was explosive, but the gunslinger tendencies were too much to overcome. Four interceptions, including the game-sealing pick, cost the Vikings the game.

Tale about Jaren
Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith (91) forces a fumble by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) during their football game Sunday, December 31, 2023, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Another QB controversy emerged. O’Connell named Hall the new starter. He was the guy most fans wanted, as he looked pretty good in his one quarter of play in Atlanta. The head coach had been monitoring his development for months and should know when he was ready. If he can hold on to the ball, he will be an upgrade, at least in theory. It turned out to be O’Connell’s second mistake. Hall was not ready for the bright lights, hesitating in the pocket and missing throws.

The rookie was benched for a performance that looked like he was an overwhelmed first-year player who was drafted in the fifth round. Mullens took over, and the offense once again looked better, although not great.

With the season’s final game approaching, O’Connell must make one more QB decision. The contest is unlikely to impact the organization, as a playoff trip is unlikely. Does Dobbs get another shot to restore his magic? Is it Mullens who was the best passer for the offense overall, or does Hall get the opportunity to show that he is better than he showed in Week 17?

Drops One Hint
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Coaches are always dealt a bad hand whenever their starting QB goes down. O’Connell deserves credit for mentoring Dobbs to a pair of wins despite the player barely knowing the playbook, and he deserves credit for creating an explosive but turnover-riddled offense with Mullens. However, he objectively named the wrong guy the starter a couple of times.

It will be an interesting offseason conversation if the former NFL QB gets a new student he can teach his offense, preferably a first-round pick in the loaded QB class, or if he will work with Cousins for another year.

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