Kevin O’Connell Falling in Coach of the Year Race

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell talks to referee Clete Blakeman (34) during the second quarter against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2022 NFL season the Minnesota Vikings employed both a new general manager and a head coach. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took over for Rick Spielman, and he tabbed Kevin O’Connell to take over for Mike Zimmer. With the talent on the roster, O’Connell entered as the odds-on favorite to win 2022 NFL Coach of the Year. He’s not there anymore.

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The Minnesota Vikings have not had a head coach win NFL Coach of the Year since Dennis Green captured the honor 30 years ago. That Minnesota team finished with an 11-5 record, and ultimately lost in the Wild Card round against Washington. Minnesota is certainly hoping for a better playoff run, and it would be great if Kevin O’Connell could make some noise to finish the regular season.

When online bookmaker Bovada put out odds this summer, O’Connell was favored at 12/1. He bested the likes of Brandon Staley (14/1), Nathaniel Hackett (16/1), and Mike McDaniel (16/1). Staley and his Chargers have had a mediocre season, while McDaniel’s Dolphins have shown plenty of excitement with Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill. Only Hackett’s Denver Broncos have truly been a flop, in large part due to the regression of quarterback Russell Wilson.

Recently having updated the odds, it’s no surprise that the 12-1 Philadelphia Eagles see their man Nick Sirianni on top. For the first time this season, a candidate is such an overwhelming favorite that the odds are negative (-400).

Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not just the winningest coaches trailing Sirianni, either. Dan Campbell has turned the Detroit Lions season around, and despite having a terrible defense, their offense is clicking on all cylinders. For his efforts he sits second at 9/1, and Robert Saleh’s New York Jets have him sitting third at 12/1.

Right now, the Minnesota Vikings see O’Connell in fourth at 20/1 odds, tied with the Dolphins McDaniel. That seems about right given the recent setbacks for Minnesota. When a team is as good as the Eagles are, it will always be difficult to overstate the total production. They’re well positioned for a top seed in the NFC and could very well finish the season with a 16-1 record. Despite a few close scares, the Eagles have largely handled opponents on a weekly basis.

If O’Connell wants to see himself get back in this race, it will likely take the Vikings winning out. Minnesota should be favored in their next two games at home, and it remains to be seen how the line will shake out in Green Bay facing the Packers at Lambeau Field. If they can hold serve and then knock off the Chicago Bears to wrap it all up, a 14-3 campaign in year one would certainly be difficult to ignore.

Are the Vikings a Top 3 team?
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Even if O’Connell doesn’t ultimately make up the necessary ground, and he’d probably need help in the way of Philadelphia slip ups, it’s hard to call this first season anything but a resounding success. He certainly could’ve done better working through changing the gameplan against Dallas, and there were times that questionable decisions were made against Detroit, but the great whole has been good.

Coming off such a tumultuous end to the Mike Zimmer tenure, a shift in culture and this type of leadership has to feel good for an organization that was longing for it. O’Connell will need to substantiate himself in the playoffs and beyond, but Act 1 has been a success.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.