The Minnesota Vikings were coming off a bad 2021 NFL season, and it was more than apparent a change from Mike Zimmer was needed. Ultimately it was decided Rick Spielman wouldn’t make that change, and he, too, needed to be shown the door. Now 12 weeks into 2022, Kevin O’Connell looks the part of everything that was necessary.
When the Minnesota Vikings sought to change course heading into 2022, they went with a younger, more progressive general manager in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He eventually landed on Kevin O’Connell as his head coach, even after flirting with well-established Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. O’Connell brought an energy that this locker room severely lacked a season ago, and his leadership style couldn’t be more different from that of Zimmer’s.
Back at the end of July, online bookmaker Bovada put out odds with Minnesota’s head coach as the favorite to win NFL Coach of the Year. This premise was likely rooted in an intact dynamic offense and a coach that seemed determined to unleash it. O’Connell bringing home the award would represent the first time a Minnesota coach has done so since Dennis Green.
With the season well underway, updated odds have yet to be offered. That being said, it’s hard to think that a 9-2 Vikings team hasn’t substantiated belief in O’Connell. Of course, there is the reality that the Philadelphia Eagles have a better record than Minnesota, and they did beat them head-to-head. Nick Sirianni is in his second season with the Eagles, but they are coming off a 9-8 season and were expected to jump forward based on the development of Jalen Hurts.
There’s certainly no denying that the Eagles have been very good this year. Hurts has developed as hoped, and right now, he may even be the frontrunner for an MVP award. All those things should tip the scales in Sirianni’s favor, but there are still six weeks to go. Philadelphia will need to keep up the blistering winning pace, and Hurts will need to keep putting up big numbers. With the Eagles seeing less of a turnaround year-over-year, it could be argued that O’Connell’s impact is more integral.
No matter what happens for the Vikings new head coach, it’s hard to argue against how much of a difference-maker he has been in 2022. Not only does the play on the field look substantially changed from what Zimmer employed, but it seems as though O’Connell has rallied a locker room willing to do whatever it takes every week.
You could ask Minnesota’s coach what a Coach of the Year award would mean to him, and he’d likely deflect back to the team. The ultimate goal is a ring when the dust settles in February, but there’s no denying that some personal accolades along the way would find a way into the trophy case as well.
Dennis Green helped elevate Minnesota throughout his tenure as head coach, and O’Connell seems to have generated similar feelings in the early going of his career. Ending the drought for the award would be cool, but it will likely also be reflective of what winds up taking place these last few weeks of the season.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.