This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings made Kevin O’Connell the second-youngest head coach in the National Football League at the age of 37. The only younger NFL coach is O’Connell’s former boss with the Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay (age 36). There are a lot of talented folks that are under the age of 40 in the NFL, and O’Connell is being recognized among them by The Athletic.
Lindsay Jones of The Athletic has put together the site’s “40 Under 40” list in the National Football League for this year, and O’Connell is one of five NFL head coaches that made it. Here’s what Jones had to say about O’Connell.
O’Connell spent the past two seasons as McVay’s offensive coordinator, working closely last year with quarterback Matthew Stafford, and parlayed the Rams’ success into his first head-coaching job. But even when O’Connell was a backup quarterback from 2008 to 2011 with the Patriots and Jets, he was preparing for an eventual career in coaching.
That opportunity first came in 2015 as quarterbacks coach in Cleveland, followed by one season as an assistant in San Francisco. He then spent three years in Washington, where he overlapped with Kirk Cousins in 2017.
Now O’Connell and Cousins are reunited in Minnesota, and it will be intriguing to see them work together again at different stages of their careers. O’Connell will call plays for Cousins, which he did not do for Stafford.
I’m not sure how much difference the “not calling plays” thing is going to make for O’Connell, to be honest. One of the other coaches on the list, Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals, also worked under McVay and also didn’t call plays, but he managed to have his team on the verge of a Super Bowl title this past season. And Taylor was a quarterbacks coach with the Rams, not an offensive coordinator like O’Connell was, so I would like to think that O’Connell might have a slightly better understanding of things at this point than Taylor might have.
I’m not trying to downplay Zac Taylor or the success he’s had to this point because, obviously, that would be silly. But, comparatively, I think O’Connell might be a bit ahead of where Taylor was when they both left the McVay coaching tree to take over their own teams. Whether that has any actual bearing on things or not remains to be seen.
No other members of the Vikings’ organization made the “40 Under 40” list. I was a bit surprised to not see the name of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah on the list, but since nobody really seems to have an accurate handle on his age as things stand right now, it might be that he’s 41 and therefore not eligible to be on it. Jones does point out that Adofo-Mensah was on this same list last year when talking about Catherine Raiche, who was hired for Adofo-Mensah’s old job with the Cleveland Browns and was among the many people that the Vikings interviewed for the GM position following Rick Spielman’s firing.
Here’s hoping that Kevin O’Connell has a nice, long tenure as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. If he can somehow get this team to where it has never been before, we can look back on things like this and say that there were people who at least saw the success coming.