Changes to the Minnesota Coaching Staff Should Elevate Kirk Cousins’ Game to the Next Level

The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff underwent a serious off-season overhaul. These changes should be the spark quarterback Kirk Cousins needs to elevate his game to the next level. After several seasons of falling short, the Vikings made some major changes to the staff. Almost every coaching position has a new name attached to it, most notably a HC, OC, and DC.

New Faces Bring Updated Philosophies

The previous head coach, Mike Zimmer, has been described as “old school.” Zimmer was not only the HC he was essentially the DC. The Vikings defense did show some improvements during his tenure but it did not stick and by 2021 they had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The defense ranked 30th overall and at the bottom for many major defensive categories. His ongoing, albeit ineffective, attention toward the defense may have allowed the offense to slip. 

While it used to be true that “defense wins championship” it is no longer enough. Coach O’Connell and new OC Wes Phillips have worked together prior to coming to the Vikings. They were both a part of the tremendous offense in Los Angles with the Rams. Hopefully, that leads to a much better Minnesota offense.

Same Players, New Playbook

While the coaching staff might be almost entirely different the players are not. Kirk Cousins as well as the other stars of the offense – Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen – are all coming back.

The system that O’Connell ran in Los Angeles is more in tune with Kirk Cousins’ playing style. Cousins has shown he has the talent and the intelligence to be great. Last year, he “had a 133.8 passer rating on throws of 10-plus air yards.” This was the best by any NFL QB since 2016. 2021 was a strong season for the receivers and backs:

Star wideout Justin Jefferson earned 1,255 receiving yards on targets of 10-plus air yards and 823 yards on targets of 10-19 air yards — both were, you guessed it, NGS single-season records. Adam Thielen owns a plus-25.7 catch rate over expected in the red area since 2018, which tops the NFL. Dalvin Cook averaged a robust 5.0 yards per rush on inside-the-tackles attempts last season.

Cousins has proven to be a reliable leader who does not take unreasonable chances. While Cousins may not be as young as he once was he has shown that he has the talent to take this team into the postseason with the appropriate play calling. Training camp is about to kick off in a few weeks and everyone will be watching with anticipation to see the new coaches’ changes. It appears to be just what Kirk Cousins has needed to elevate this offense to the next level.