Raise your hand if you expected the Minnesota Vikings to immediately become contenders under first head coach Kevin O’Connell. It’s Week 9, and the Vikes 6-1 hold a four-game lead in the loss column over the rest of the NFC North. Nobody saw it coming.
While I’m one of the group of football watchers who weren’t sure of Minnesota’s potential this season, I’m not surprised the team is thriving under a head coach with communication skills and exceptional leadership.
As a former adviser to O’Connell during a series of prep football events (Elite 11) in the early 2010s, I saw him work closely with young quarterbacks in a camp environment towards the end of his playing career. While working in a quarterback camp is obviously not the same as leading an NFL team, the job requires a combination of savvy communication, patience, and teaching skills. This is how high school players master patterns, footwork, and fundamentals. And it’s a transferable skill that makes it easy to lead an ambitious group of professionals in 2022. From using a variety of teaching tactics, to helping inexperienced players understand complex concepts, to whispering Sweet words in the quarterback’s ear to boost his confidence, the experience of high-level coaching Schoolboys helped O’Connell learn how to relate to today’s players. I really believe it.
Watch how he helped Justin Jefferson take his game to another level in his third season. After some early-season struggles in which the Pro Bowl wide receiver didn’t receive enough touches, O’Connell made a concerted effort to supply the WR1 with a slew of targets throughout the month. october. The Vikings play caller scripted some easy touches on screens, rapids and isolation routes to keep the wide engaged in play. Additionally, O’Connell incorporated moves, changes and different line-ups to put Jefferson in a prime position to get the ball against any cover.
With its top playmaker happy and engaged, the attack clicked despite a sketchy makeover. Part of the offense’s success certainly has to do with Kirk Cousins’ consistent play in the first half of the season. Although the raw numbers might suggest otherwise — Cousins’ passing yards per game, yards per attempt and passer rating are down from 2021 — the 11th-year pro has made enough critical plays to help his team win five games in a row. And here’s the gist: O’Connell provided support behind his quarterback at every turn. It’s a stark departure from how his predecessor treated the quarterback, but it could certainly pay off for the rookie leader, with a more confident QB1 ready to heed his coach’s advice as he feels the loss. love and support. Given the importance of the head-coach-quarterback dynamic, O’Connell’s communication skills and relationship-building tactics created trust between players and coaches that is critical to success at long term of a team.