Kevin O’Connell‘s career as a player in the NFL quite panned out how he’d hoped, but he sure has a bright future as a coach.
The leader of the Minnesota Vikings orchestrated a 31-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons last week, guiding newcomer Josh Dobbs to the second win of his career and his first fourth-quarter, game-winning drive.
Dobbs earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the improbable performance of mounting the comeback just five days after the Arizona Cardinals traded him away.
However, what O’Connell did, synthesizing the play calls down for Dobbs, who hadn’t thrown a single pass in practice last week, in realtime was a masterclass in coaching.
His former general manager believes that moment will cement O’Connell as a legendary coach for years to come.
Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who acquired O’Connell as a backup quarterback in 2009 and also cut him twice from the Jets roster, said he recommended O’Connell as a head coach candidate to several teams before the Vikings hired him.
To the Vikings’ fortune, they landed O’Connell, who has inspired a team that started the year 0-3 to win five of their next six games despite missing stars Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins.
“Minnesota has a superstar for the next 20 years,” Tannenbaum said, per ESPN. “They’re lucky to have him. He’s only going to get better and better. I think he has a chance to be really special. People will say he’s a McVay guy with a really good scheme. Kevin has a million more attributes to add to a program than scheme. He has relatability. He is a good listener. He has a really good demeanor.”
Kevin O’Connell Jokes About Playing QB for Vikings
In the days that have followed Dobbs’ heroic comeback that came when rookie starter Jaren Hall went down with concussion symptoms in the first quarter last week, O’Connell has joked that he would be next in line if there were any more injuries to the quarterback room.
“Unless that quarterback could be me,” O’Connell said before giving Dobbs the nod to start in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints. “As far as the amount of time and energy we’ll now put into making sure Josh is ready to roll.”
Player-coach Kevin O'Connell?? pic.twitter.com/KuvCjOMINM
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) November 6, 2023
O’Connell’s experience as a former quarterback has helped him truly master the strings of playcalling puppetry and envisioning what his quarterbacks are seeing on the field.
What he did with Dobbs was evidence the Vikings coach could turn water into wine.
“It was great that Kevin played quarterback,” Dobbs said in a Wednesday, November 9 news conference. “He obviously knows what I’m going through, so he’s able to communicate effectively like, ‘Hey, this what you’re looking at. This is what you have on this side of the [field]. This is what you have on that side of the [field].’ He’s able to talk in lingos that I come from to be able to simplify it for me.”
Vikings Exploring Future at QB Ahead of Schedule
The Vikings having to move forward without Cousins, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on October 31, has offered a trial run of what life without the veteran quarterback may look like.
The front office opted to send Cousins into a final contract year, and up until his Week 8 injury, Cousins was playing some of the best football of his career. Several analysts believe Cousins’ injury actually makes it more likely he re-signs with Minnesota.
But at the very least, the Vikings are seeing what the possibilities are with a younger, more mobile quarterback. Dobbs fits the mold of the next generation of quarterbacks entering the league — and Minnesota may be inclined to pick one in next year’s draft and spend elsewhere.