Vikings finalize hire of champion Rams OC Kevin O’Connell

Published 10:58 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings finalized their hiring of head coach Kevin O’Connell on Wednesday, completing a sharp offseason shift in direction by turning over the team to the 36-year-old offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

Three days after the Rams beat Cincinnati for the title, O’Connell formally assumed his branch of the Sean McVay tree. He’s now the fourth former assistant under the head coach of the Rams to become an NFL head coach himself.

O’Connell replaces Mike Zimmer, fired last month after eight seasons and only two playoff-game wins, and will be the 10th head coach in Vikings history.

Drafted in 2008 by the New England Patriots to be Tom Brady’s backup — Brady was already eight years into his seven-time Super Bowl-winning and three-time NFL MVP career — O’Connell remarkably became a head coach in the same offseason that Brady finally retired.

O’Connell attempted only six passes for the Patriots as a rookie, the only regular-season attempts of his career, and he was released the following year. Claimed by the Detroit Lions, he lasted five days there before a trade to the New York Jets.

After a torn labrum sidelined him for the 2010 season, O’Connell bounced from the Jets to the Miami Dolphins and then back to the Jets in 2011. He had a preseason stint with the Chargers in his native San Diego in 2012, but that was the end of his time as a player.

During his time buried on those depth charts, O’Connell continually impressed his coaches and teammates with his grasp of the offense, vision of the field and studious nature.

After dabbling in broadcasting, his first NFL coaching job came with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 as their quarterbacks coach. The following year, he worked on special projects for the San Francisco 49ers, when he befriended Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the recently appointed general manager of the Vikings who was in research and development for the 49ers.

O’Connell went to Washington in 2017, when he supervised Kirk Cousins as quarterbacks coach and stayed there two more years with the additional passing game coordinator title after Cousins moved on to Minnesota. McVay hired O’Connell in 2020 as his offensive coordinator, and his second season in L.A. ended on the ultimate high note with the 23-20 victory on Sunday over the Bengals.