Pertinent Purple Topics: Can Kevin O’Connell Actually Coach?

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Frankly, it’s impossible to know if Kevin O’Connell will be a successful head coach.

Being an assistant comes with far less responsibility. By no means am I suggesting that being an OC comes with a small amount of work. That’s definitely not the case. A critical difference, though, rests in being responsible for the entire team. We’ve heard O’Connell speak about how being a head coach allows him a certain amount of freedom insofar as he can float to all the different parts of practice. The counterpoint is that he’s partially responsible for all of it. If the defense, special teams, and/or (especially) the offense fails, people will point the finger at O’Connell.

Earlier in the offseason, we’ve seen evaluators unsure of where to rank K/O against his peers. Much of the issue stems from the fact that he’s coming from the Rams. On the one hand, he’s fresh off a Super Bowl victory, so he has a great idea of what it takes to climb Mount Lombardi. On the other hand, he was the OC for Sean McVay, meaning he didn’t call the plays or solely design the offense.

Previously, Kevin O’Connell was the OC for Washington. Before rising to that position, he was the QB coach for none other than Kirk Cousins. As any number of folks have suggested, that familiarity with Cousins likely helped him snag the job. Otherwise, he has worked for the Browns and 49ers.

So much of the emphasis so far this offseason has rested in preaching positivity and hope. Players are feeling encouraged about the new energy around the team. What happens, though, when adversity arrives? Will the team be able to stay focused when the referees make a horrendous, game-altering call? What about when there is an injury to a key player? Is the team’s confidence shaken? O’Connell needs to prove he can guide his team through these circumstances.

Of course, one of the other critical areas that we’re all looking for is if he can get more out of Cousins. Finding a way to somehow get the QB from good-to-great would be a remarkable achievement. Getting unusually strong play from the well-paid QB would be a welcome surprise, something that could push this team higher in the standings than people think. 12-5 is within reach if Cousins puts in the best season of his career.

Kevin O’Connell, quite evidently, has proven to be a strong assistant coach in the NFL. Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee anything for Minnesota. It’s entirely possible he does horrible, tremendous, or anywhere in between. Preseason will be the first opportunity for Vikings fans to get a sense of what K/O can do as the purple head coach.

Editor’s Note: This series considers a variety of questions that Minnesota will be looking to answer during training camp and the preseason. The point is simply to provide concise discussions of pertinent purple topics. We’ll do one per day leading up to training camp, which begins on July 24th.

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