Kevin O’Connell’s rise in the NFL has taken him all the way to Minnesota.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, the Vikings are set to appoint the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator as their new head coach. The deal will not be finalised until after O’Connell’s Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
According to Pelissero, finalist for the job were teammate and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Giants DC Patrick Graham, and University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who visited with team officials for nine hours on Wednesday but was not offered the job. The Jaguars and Texans were also interested in O’Connell.
This will be the 36-year-first old’s head coaching job. If history is any guide, his recent success foreshadows future success. Sean McVay, whose recent students include the Bengals’ Zac Taylor, the Packers’ Matt LaFleur, and the Chargers’ Brandon Staley, has worked as L.A.’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. All three were hired as head coaches before they turned 40, with O’Connell likely to become the league’s second-youngest coach behind McVay.
Furthermore, O’Connell’s responsibilities have increased with each NFL trip. Following a brief pro playing career with New England, when he was drafted in the third round of the 2008 draught to back up Tom Brady, O’Connell began his coaching career in 2015 as an assistant with the Browns. He subsequently spent a year with the 49ers, where he worked alongside new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, before being hired as the quarterbacks coach in Washington. When Ron Rivera took over as coach in 2020, O’Connell was moved to offensive coordinator, but he was not retained. McVay quickly hired O’Connell as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, a position that had been empty for the previous two years.
After ranking 22nd in 2020, L.A. improved significantly on offensive in 2021, rising to sixth in scoring. In his debut season with the Rams, quarterback Matthew Stafford set career highs in touchdown passes (41) and completion percentage (67.2) while throwing for 4,886 yards. His passer rating of 102.9 was certainly his best for the entire season.
With Kirk Cousins at the helm, O’Connell will inherit a Vikings offence that rated a respectable 12th in scoring but lacked consistency and too frequently failed to produce in close games. That was one factor stopping Minnesota from achieving greater success as a team. Under previous coach Mike Zimmer, the team won at least seven games in each of his eight seasons, but just three playoff berths and two triumphs.
It’s now up to O’Connell to lead the Vikings to new heights, as his spectacular career with the Rams comes to a close with the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.