After winning Super Bowl LVI with the Los Angeles Rams in February, Kevin O’Connell became the new head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He will be inheriting an offense with Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, and arguably one of the best receiving groups in the NFL with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J Osborn. While the defense has been trending downward as of late and the offensive line hasn’t been the most consistent, what can you expect from Kevin O’Connell? Well, let’s take a look at his career first.
Career As A Player
Kevin O’Connell played quarterback at San Diego State for four years (2004-2007). His career stats at San Diego State were a completion percentage of 57.7%, throwing for 7,689 yards, 46 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. In 2008 he was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round (94th overall). O’Connell only appeared in two games. He went four of six with 23 yards passing in 2008.
Early Coaching Career
After a very short career as a player Kevin O’Connell started his coaching career with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. He was the quarterbacks coach under Mike Pettine, working with Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, and Austin Davis. The next year he was hired by the San Francisco 49ers as a special projects coach. After his one-year stint with the 49ers he spent the next three years (2017-2019) in Washington. O’Connell joined head coach Jay Gruden working at a different position each year. He was quarterbacks coach in 2017, then the passing game coordinator in 2018, and ended with being the offensive coordinator in 2019. In 2017 he coached Kirk Cousins going 7-9. In 2018 O’Connell worked with quarterbacks Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and Tress Way.
Offensive Coordinator With The Los Angeles Rams
After stints with the Browns, 49ers, and Commanders, Kevin O’Connell joined Sean McVay in Los Angeles in 2020. He was offensive coordinator there for two seasons. He worked with quarterbacks Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford. While in Los Angeles the team went a combined 27-12 in the two seasons he was there. They made the playoffs both years and won Superbowl LVI.
With O’Connell as the offensive coordinator here is how the offense looked. In 2020 the Rams offense ranked 11th in total yards (6,032) and 13th in total passing yards (4,014). For the running game they ranked tenth in total rushing yards (2,018) and in total rushing touchdowns (19). In 2021, the Rams offense ranked seventh in total points scored (460), ninth in total yards (6,325), fifth in total passing yards (4,642), second in passing yards per attempt (7.3), and second in total passing touchdowns (41). The Rams running game didn’t rank in the top 20 in total yards, touchdowns, or yards per attempt.
What To Expect From Kevin O’Connell
Well, O’Connell gets an upgrade at running back with Dalvin Cook over Akers and Henderson. He doesn’t take a hit in his receiving core with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. Kirk Cousins is a slight downgrade from Matthew Stafford. The offensive line is definitely worse than what O’Connell had in Los Angeles as well as the defense. Just remember all of this is being compared to a Super Bowl winning roster.
O’Connell has past experience coaching Kirk Cousins, so there shouldn’t be your typical gap between new head coach and quarterback with the Vikings. Having worked with the offensive guru that is Sean McVay, as well as Matthew Stafford, he has had some great experience working with a great offense. While he didn’t call the plays for the Rams, he was integrally involved and knows what made the Rams so successful. He should bring an offensive scheme that flips the script to a more pass first offense. This will differ from the run first offense that Mike Zimmer had in place.
The Vikings offense in 2021 was ranked 14th in total points (425), 12th in total yards (6168), 11th in total passing yards (4,238), ninth in touchdowns (34), first in interceptions allowed (seven), and 12th in yards per passing attempt (6.7). For the running game the Vikings ranked 16th in total passing yards (1,930), and 28th in total rushing touchdowns (10).
What To Expect This Season
Expect O’Connell to increase the already top 15 passing game ranks this year with a good quarterback paired with a great receiving core. The running game should also see improvement if the passing game takes off, opening up the running attack led by Dalvin Cook. We will have to wait until the season to see what the defense will look like as well as the offensive line. Expect good things with new coach Kevin O’Connell this season and see whether or not he can bring some of the McVay magic with him.