Vikings Head Coach Gets High Praise Entering Year 3

No Love for Kevin
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The Minnesota Vikings will enter 2024 hoping to subtract the “rebuild” noun from their competitive rebuild strategy, while Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell will attempt to bring the club back to the postseason.

Vikings Head Coach Gets High Praise Entering Year 3

Minnesota finished 7-10 in 2023, a disappointing campaign that never recovered after quarterback Kirk Cousins was injured in Week 8. Now, that same Cousins may be on the brink of departing the franchise, a verdict that will rendered sometime next week.

Vikings Head Coach
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And no matter the quarterback under center in 2024 — Cousins, a fancy new rookie, Nick Mullens, or a different “bridge” option — the Vikings are evidently in good hands with O’Connell’s playcalling, says The 33rd Team. The NFL think-tank and analysis site ranked all playcallers at the end of February, and the Vikings skipper checked in at No. 7.

The 33rd Team’s Derrik Klassen explained O’Connell at the spot, “Kevin O’Connell came to the Minnesota Vikings as a Sean McVay disciple. Run the ball, use tight formations, throw on play-action — you know all the tenets at this point. Well, the Vikings’ interior offensive line situation never let O’Connell be what he wants to the degree he wants to be. Running the ball and staying ahead of the sticks is hard with a line that can’t get movement.”

Can Set a Season
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O’Connell was sandwiched between Sean Payton (Denver Broncos, No. 6) and Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts, No. 8). Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers topped the list.

“Yet, O’Connell found ways to make this offense hum. Every player in the passing offense is used to perfection. Even the way O’Connell makes KJ Osborn useful as a blocker and underneath shallow runner is impressive. O’Connell is a pretty good game and clock manager as well. That’s a little more ambiguous when it comes to splitting his head coach duties from his play-calling duties, but still,” Klassen added.

Even in a Down
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Few doubt O’Connell’s ability to foster a competent passing attack: he kept the Vikings offense afloat, for the most part, with Joshua Dobbs and Nick Mullens in 2023. However, O’Connell must fix his rushing woes before too long, as the ground-game numbers have checked in near the league’s bottom-six tier in back-to-back seasons.

Meanwhile, O’Connell’s offensive mettle will be tested soon, probably as early as September. The Vikings appear on the cusp of a split with the aforementioned Cousins, and if so, Minnesota may start a rookie passer like Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr., or Bo Nix in 2024. That’s to be determined, of course, with the draft about seven weeks away.

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Former Vikings offensive coordinator turned Cleveland Brown’s head coach, Kevin Stefanski, checked in at No. 9 on Klassen’s list.

NFL free agency begins in six days.

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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