Vikings Coaching Staff Comes Together as Kevin O’Connell Hire Made Official

Vikings Coaching Staff Comes Together as Kevin OConnell Hire Made Official

John Lane, Contributor

It is a new era in Minnesota. A new regime. The man who will be at the helm of it will step foot into TCO Performing Center for the first time as a head coach. Newly hired Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is scheduled for an introductory press conference at 4 PM CT tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. For weeks there had been speculation as it pertains to the search for a new head coach. Jim Harbaugh, the head coach for the University of Michigan Wolverines, was just a mere two weeks ago emerging as the favorite for the head coach position. Reports leading up to Harbaugh’s in-person interview at TCO Performance Center suggested that Harbaugh was coming there with the confidence of becoming the next Vikings head coach.

The Wilf family and the rest of the Vikings front office felt differently. O’Connell was their guy all along. So, a new era is here. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired in January as the new general manger for the team. O’Connell is now signed to take over head coaching duties after Mike Zimmer was fired after 8 seasons with the team. After only two playoff wins under Zimmer, Vikings fans should be happy to know O’Connell won three playoff games in 2022 alone as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. Not to mention the newly hired head coach won his first Super Bowl on Sunday as the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 23-20.

A Super Bowl winning coach is exactly what the Vikings need as the franchise is tied with the Buffalo Bills for most Super Bowl losses having lost four times. O’Connell is now the fourth NFL head coach to be a descendent of Rams head coach Sean McVay’s coaching tree. At only 36 years old McVay’s coaching tree includes Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers, Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals, Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers, and now Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams’ connections for the Vikings may not end at that as O’Connell’s coaching staff is being assembled.

A couple names that are rumored to be heading to the Vikings are Wes Phillips, the Rams’ tight ends coach, who is rumored to be in position for the offensive coordinator position previously held by Klint Kubiak, son of former Super Bowl winning coach Gary Kubiak who was also with the Vikings in 2019 and 2020. For once this decade there appears to be no nepotism at play as was the case with the Kubiaks and Zimmers (Mike and his son Adam who was co-defensive coordinator in 2020) despite Wes being the son of Wade Phillips, the former Super Bowl winning coach. Oddly enough Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips both won the same Super Bowl in Denver when Gary was the head coach and Wade was the defensive coordinator. Wade was also the defensive coordinator for the Rams from 2017-2019.

In Wade’s final year with the Rams before retiring, Wes was named the tight ends coach after a couple of seasons in Washington. In 2020, Wes received a promotion as passing game coordinator was added to his title. So while nepotism may have played a factor in Wes going to the Rams to begin with, he would be coming to Minnesota without another Phillips in the building. I will note I am not aware if there are any interns in the building with the name Phillips however. Another name to keep an eye on who may be making the move from Los Angeles to Minnesota is Chris O’Hara, offensive assistant for the Rams. 2021 was O’Hara’s first season with the Rams as he was previously with Jacksonville and Washington.

On the defensive side, a defensive coordinator has been named for the Vikings as Ed Donatell will be coming over after a few seasons in Denver with Vic Fangio. Donatell is expected to bring a 3-4 defensive scheme to Minnesota as was run in Denver. This will be Donatell’s first season without Fangio in the building since Fangio hired him as a defensive backs coach in 2011 when Fangio was with the San Francisco 49ers as defensive coordinator. When Fangio took the same position in Chicago with the Bears in 2015, Donatell came along to continue as defensive backs coach. The Vikings are still filling out their coaching staff, but there is no doubt the 2021 Vikings will have a new look not seen under Zimmer.