Vikes officially hires ‘innovative’ O’Connell as HC

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The Vikings officially hired Ram’s offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the 10th head coach in franchise history on Wednesday.

Viking co-owner and president Mark Wilf called O’Connell “a strong leader, an innovative coach and an excellent communicator” in a statement issued by the team.

“Kevin played the game at all levels, giving him a unique connection to players and he is highly respected throughout the league,” he said.

Co-owner and chairman Zygi Wilf praised O’Connell for his “football IQ” and said he “is passionate about preparing, developing and communicating with his players.”

“Apart from the Xs and the Os, everyone we talked to throughout this search process talked a lot about Kevin’s ability to motivate players, coaches and staff,” he said.

The Vikings plan to hold a press conference to introduce O’Connell as their new coach on Thursday.

O’Connell, 36, will be the second-youngest current NFL head coach after his now-former boss, Sean McVay, also 36, but eight months younger.

Minnesota had not been allowed to announce that they were hiring O’Connell while the Rams were still playing in the off-season. Los Angeles’ season ended Sunday, culminating in its Super Bowl LVI victory.

O’Connell was one of four candidates to receive another interview with the Vikings along with Ram’s defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, then Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“When I spent time with Kevin during the interview process, it immediately became clear that he will be a great partner in building this football team for long-term success,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in the statement. “He understands what is essential to lead a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us with problem solving in all areas of football. He is a sincerely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment. “

O’Connell is expected to take Ram’s tight-ends coach and passing coordinator Wes Phillips with him to Minnesota as his offensive coordinator or passing coordinator, league sources have told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown will also interview the Vikings for their offensive coordinator job, according to Schefter.

The Vikings also have their defensive coordinator for O’Connell’s staff, who signed a deal with Ed Donatell last week, sources told ESPN.

O’Connell will be the second two-year coordinator on Sean McVay’s staff to get a head coach job, joining former Ram’s defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who was hired by Chargers last year. He is the fourth current NFL head coach to work under McVay. Bengals ‘Zac Taylor and the Packers’ Matt LaFleur are the others.

O’Connell replaces Mike Zimmer, who was fired last month after eight seasons. The Vikings finished with a record of 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the second season in a row.

“This is a franchise with a deep history and a huge fan base,” O’Connell said in the statement. “After being on the visitors’ sidelines at US Bank Stadium and experiencing that environment as an opposing coach, I’m excited to now have the support of these passionate Vikings fans. I’m committed to working tirelessly to bring them a Super Bowl. championship.”

O’Connell finished his second season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator since joining the franchise in 2020. Prior to that, he was with Washington for three seasons, as offensive coordinator in 2019, passing coordinator in 2018 and quarterbacks coach in 2017, when he supervised the current Vikings start Kirk Cousins.

After frolicking in broadcasting, his first NFL coaching job came with the Browns in 2015 as their quarterbacks coach. The following year, he worked on special projects for the 49s, when he became friends with Adofo-Mensah, the newly appointed GM for the Vikings, who was in research and development for San Francisco.

O’Connell was the quarterback in the NFL, taken by the Patriots in the third round of the 2008 draft and also spent time with the Lions, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers for five seasons through 2012.

He attempted only six passes for the Patriots as a rookie, the only attempts in the regular season of his career, and he was released the following year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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