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It’s official, finally: Vikings name Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell their new head coach

A press conference will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the TCO Performance Center to introduce O’Connell.

Kevin-OConnell-Headshot.jpg
Kevin O’Connell

MINNEAPOLIS — Three days after winning his first Super Bowl ring, Kevin O’Connell has landed his first head coaching job.

The Minnesota Vikings officially named the former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator their coach Wednesday. That came three days after the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

A news conference will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan to introduce O’Connell. He will arrive in Minnesota after taking part Wednesday in the Rams’ victory parade in Los Angeles.

O’Connell, 36, was chosen for the job Feb. 2 to replace Mike Zimmer, 65, but nothing could be official until after the Rams played in the Super Bowl. It took two full days for O’Connell’s contract to be hammered out since negotiations couldn’t get underway until after the Super Bowl.

“I greatly appreciate the Wilf (ownership) family, (general manager) Kwesi (Adofo-Mensah) and the entire Minnesota Vikings organization for providing the opportunity to be their next head coach,” O’Connell said in a statement. “This is a franchise with a deep history and a tremendous fan base. … I am committed to working tirelessly to bring them a Super Bowl championship.”

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O’Connell had a virtual interview Jan. 21 and an in-person interview in Los Angeles on Jan. 31. Adofo-Mensah, who was hired Jan. 26 to replace Rick Spielman as general manager, was involved in the second interview but not the first.

After Zimmer and Spielman both were fired Jan. 10 following two straight losing seasons, the Vikings began the search for a new general manager and head coach. They interviewed nine candidates for coach. Other finalists were Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and Patrick Graham, who was then defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and now has that job with the Las Vegas Raiders.

“As I spent time with Kevin during the interview process, it became immediately clear he will be a great partner in building this football team for long-term success,” Adofo-Mensah said in a statement.

O’Connell becomes the second-youngest coach in Vikings history. Norm Van Brocklin was 34 when he was hired as the team’s first coach in January 1961 and 35 when he took the field for his first game.

Van Brocklin was replaced in 1967 by Bud Grant, who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances as their coach from 1967-83 and in 1985. The hall of famer welcomed the hiring of O’Connell and looks forward to meeting him at some point.

“I’m sure I’ll see him down the line, but he’s got more to think about than all the people that he’s going to have to meet here,’’ Grant said. “He’s got to hire coaches. He’s got to set up his office.”

O’Connell already is hard at work on selecting his coaching staff. The Vikings reached an agreement last week for Ed Donatell to be the defensive coordinator. Rams passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Wes Phillips and running backs/assistant head coach Thomas Brown are candidates for offensive coordinator.

O’Connell, a Knoxville, Tenn., native who grew up in Carlsbad, Calif., played quarterback at nearby San Diego State. He was taken in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft by New England and played in two games as a rookie, completing 4 of 6 passes for 23 yards. He also spent time with Detroit, New York Jets, Miami and San Diego Chargers but did not appear in another regular-season game and retired as a player after the 2012 season.

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O’Connell has seven seasons of experience as an NFL assistant, including three as offensive coordinator. He was Washington’s coordinator in 2019 and was coordinator for the Rams the past two seasons. He was Washington’s quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018 and worked with current Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins during his first year in that position.

“I’m excited about Kevin coming on board,’’ Cousins said in a statement. “Kevin will be the one driving our culture and the voice day in and day out. I’m really excited about what he brings. He’s a great football mind, he has been around great football minds.”

A number of Vikings players over the past two weeks have lauded the selection of O’Connell as the 10th coach in team history.

“Obviously, I’m excited,’’ guard Wyatt Davis said Wednesday. “I’m excited to get to know him. With all the changes that have been made, obviously it was done for a reason to help propel us and take that next step this upcoming season.”

O’Connell worked the past two seasons under Rams head coach Sean McVay, 36, who became the youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl. McVay on Feb. 3 said O’Connell will “be a great coach” because “he’s a great leader” with the “ability to relate to the players.” McVay called the Rams’ plays, but O’Connell had a lot of input on a team that ranked seventh in the NFL in points scored.

“Kevin is an impressive and respected leader who has been a part of some explosive offensive schemes,” Vikings owner and chairman Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “He has a tremendous football IQ and is passionate about preparing, developing and communicating with his players.”

O’Connell is the latest young coach to have worked under McVay to land a head coaching job. Others include Green Bay’s Matt LeFleur, 42, Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor, 38, and Brandon Staley, 39, of the Los Angeles Chargers.

“Everybody is sort of asking and wondering what this means, and I would say whether we had an experienced head coach (or not), there’s still so much that’s unknown,’’ said Vikings radio and television analyst and former linebacker Ben Leber. “So I think we don’t know what this really means. All I know is I think everybody’s excited that we have change. I think everybody’s wanting change, and why not try something new and see if this younger generation of football coaches can relate to the players.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGSFOOTBALL
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