Welcome to the first of our five-post series of questions with the folks from Football Outsiders about the 2022 Minnesota Vikings in celebration of the release of this year’s version of the Football Outsiders Almanac (available in both digital and print versions).
Our questions for this year went to Derrik Klassen, who you can find on the Twitter machine @QBKlass. He wrote the chapter on the Vikings for this year’s Almanac, so he took the time to answer the five queries that I posed for this year’s squad. The first one has to do with the changing of the guard on the Vikings’ sidelines from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell.
We know that Kevin O’Connell has the most necessary qualification to be an NFL head coach, that being that he has been in the same room as Sean McVay at some point in the last ten years. But, in all seriousness, do you expect any sort of “new coach bounce” for the Vikings in 2022?
Yes, but not because of O’Connell necessarily. I think O’Connell can be good, especially if he takes any of what he learned with Cooper Kupp and applies it to Justin Jefferson, but it goes beyond him. I think the Mike Zimmer era had just gotten stale towards the end, be that years of middling success or a quarterback feud or whatever. So any “bounce” they receive I think has more to do with rebounding off the staleness of Zimmer’s run, not necessarily O’Connell being a spark. O’Connell just has to be competent and friendly for that bounce to happen.
Now, to be clear, I think that O’Connell is going to be a pretty good coach, particularly with the way he’s handled things after the Vikings’ very public flirtation with Jim Harbaugh. But I think that Derrik makes a very good point in saying that Zimmer had become “stale” at the end of his time in Minnesota.
This isn’t something that’s unique to Mike Zimmer, obviously. Far from it. We saw something similar at the end of the Dennis Green era here in Minnesota when the team pretty much stopped paying attention to what Green was saying. That culminated in Green either resigning or being fired (depending on which version of events you believe) before the 2001 season finale against Baltimore, which gave way to the Mike Tice era.
Green, as history shows right now, is pretty clearly the best coach in Vikings history not named Bud Grant. He’s second in length of tenure, second in wins, and he brought the team out of the aftermath of the Herschel Walker trade back to the top of the NFL, culminating with the 1998 team. But, eventually, the same sorts of speeches and motivational approaches just stop hitting home and coaches end up getting fired when things go south.
O’Connell is now the second-youngest head coach in the National Football League, and he’s teamed with one of the youngest General Managers in the NFL in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Those two are going to bring a completely different perspective to things than what we saw throughout the Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer era, and it might just be enough for the Vikings to actually pull off the “competitive rebuild” that Adofo-Mensah touted in some of his introductory press conferences.
What do you think, folks? Do you think that replacing Mike Zimmer with Kevin O’Connell is going to result in a “new coach bounce” for the 2022 Vikings?