A new era begins as Kevin O’Connell arrives in Minnesota

Minnesota Vikings Introduce Kevin O'Connell

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The Vikings introduced their new head coach Kevin O’Connell on Thursday inside the field house at TCO Performance Center. If it wasn’t already clear after Mark Wilf and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s press conferences, this team is heading in a new direction with a key focus being on collaboration. 

O’Connell is coming to Minnesota fresh off a Super Bowl victory in which he was celebrating less than 24 hours prior to his first press conference in purple. Culture, collaboration and connecting with his players were all a common theme, while he also addressed the quarterback position and the identity of his offense. 

“Well, I think Kirk has played at a very high level, and he's done a lot of really good things throughout his career,” O’Connell said. “I know who he is as a player, and I know what he's capable of, and part of our job as coaches is maximizing a player's ability to go out every single Sunday and have success.”

Although the word collaboration wasn’t mentioned while talking about Cousins, it’s obvious that O’Connell values the relationship between himself and the quarterback he’s working with. Many rumors have circulated about the previous regime not having this connection with the team’s starting quarterback, so this should be taken as a big positive moving forward. 

It was assumed that O’Connell would call plays for the offense, but he confirmed that on Thursday. 

“Yes, I do plan on calling the plays. I think it's funny you ask that because I've used this joke before, but my career as a player provided a great platform for me as a coach because I did spend a lot of time watching games from the sideline,” O’Connell said. “I will say that with that becomes the ability to see the game in a way that I feel very prepared to call the game. I feel like I've been around one of the best play callers in the NFL over the last couple years, and obviously the system we run here will have a lot of characteristics of what we did in Los Angeles.” 

The youth movement has begun in Minnesota with O’Connell just being 36 years old, but he talked about how he’s learned the importance of connecting with his players. 

“The best coaches I ever had, I felt like they cared about me,” O’Connell said. “I felt like they cared about not only the production on the field but the process which we got to that point.”

Discussing the process and the why behind it was another strong talking point. With the draft and free agency approaching, the Vikings new GM discussed the importance of collaboration with O’Connell. 

“Side by side. We talk about a shared vision a lot. We talked about it through the interview process, we talked about it when he got here last night,” Adofo-Mensah said. “That’s what we’re about. We know what we’re trying to get to, and then really it’s just figuring out where you are and what next steps to take to get there.” 

After the firings of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman, some Vikings veterans were outspoken about a negative culture. O’Connell was asked about the Rams culture and how it allowed them to be so successful. 

“It’s a culture built on players and coaches being connected. The communication that exists in that building, coach to coach, player to coach, coach to player is second to none, and it provides a platform for everybody to feel they have the ownership of the why,” O’Connell said. “That’s what goes on in that building is from top down, the why is being explained on a daily basis.” 

One of the biggest talking points circulating around the Vikings offseason is whether this team is built to win now. O’Connell addressed that with the belief that this team isn’t far away from achieving its ultimate goal. 

“I don’t, really don’t. We’ve talked a lot about that. That’s one of the things you look for when you get these opportunities is where is this current team at,” O’Connell said. “And then obviously what type of plan can we put in place to go accomplish the goals that we want to accomplish.”  

Although O’Connell comes from the offensive side of the ball, he wasn’t afraid to deep dive the state of the Vikings defense. Some players' names have been thrown around as possible cap casualties, but it certainly sounded like he wanted some of the veterans back in 2022. 

“But as far as our players go, I see impactful players at all three levels, I really do, starting in the back end with Harrison Smith. I think he's the perfect player for the defensive structure we want to play from the standpoint of the coverage, how we want to make all things look the same,” O’Connell said. “He's got great length. He's got great instincts. He's going to be a problem for people in the middle of the field and around the line of scrimmage. He really always has been, speaking from experience.” 

On top of talking up one of the best Vikings defensive players throughout the last decade, he also name-dropped Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. It’s felt as if Barr was on his way out of Minnesota since the season ended, but perhaps O’Connell has plans for him in a new 3-4 style defense. 

There was a lot to take away from the first of many press conferences done by O’Connell in Minnesota. It’s clear that he and Adofo-Mensah have already built a connection, something that dissolved between the prior GM and HC just months ago. 

“I'm excited to stand in front of this team, lead from the front, and they're going to get my very best every single day, and I think they'll feel that, and in the end, I want these players to know that I'll care about them,” O’Connell said. “They'll get my best every day, like I said, and we're going to put them in great positions to go out and have success.”

One thing is certain, a new era of Vikings football is here, and fans should be excited after watching O’Connell speak Thursday evening. 

For more Vikings related news make sure to tune into KFAN 100.3, The State of Purple podcast and stay up to date on KFAN.com.

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