When Kevin O’Connell took over for Mike Zimmer about one year ago, the only primary coach who remained from Zimmer’s staff was wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell.
After the Minnesota Vikings fancy-but-abbreviated 13-4 season in O’Connell’s first year, McCardell was sought after by the New England Patriots as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted last week, “The Patriots have requested permission to speak with Vikings WRs coach Keenan McCardell for their OC position, sources say. He joins a growing list of candidates that also includes Bama OC Bill O’Brien.”
Keenan McCardell May Stay Put after All
Well, for McCardell and the Patriots gig, it’s a ‘not yet.’ The Patriots went in a different direction on Tuesday, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Alabama OC/QB coach Bill O’Brien has returned to New England and is being named the Patriots offensive coordinator, sources tell Chris Low of ESPN and me. O’Brien was a Patriots’ assistant coach from 2007-2011, and now returns to coach Mac Jones, whom he briefly worked with at Alabama.”
McCardell, 53, is revered in the Vikings organization, especially by players and fans. He played an incredible 16 seasons in the NFL from 1992 to 2007 and has ridden with the Vikings since the start of the 2021 season. When the franchise cleaned house with a new general manager and coaches last year, McCardell was the last man standing for coaching holdovers. Even beloved men like Andre Patterson trekked to new teams. But McCardell stayed, pairing with O’Connell, a rookie head coach.
And, yes, McCardell was surpassed for the offensive coordinator in New England by the same guy who is often credited with “ruining” the Houston Texans. In 2022, the Patriots didn’t bother employing offensive or defensive coordinators, missed the postseason, and appear to be trending toward reestablishing normative order with their coaching staff.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added about the Patriots-O’Brien news regarding QB1 Mac Jones, “Bill O’Brien was back in the building yesterday for a second interview and now joins the staff, formalizing long-held plans. This is a good day for Mac Jones.”
In Minnesota, McCardell has a pristine reputation — probably why New England entertained the thought of him as offensive coordinator. He’s credited with polishing Justin Jefferson, who is weeks away from winning the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award. He also reportedly “pounded the table” during last year’s draft process for Jalen Nailor, Minnesota’s current WR5. The Vikings director of college scouting, Mike Sholiton, said about Nailor and McCardell last spring, “We’re always looking for guys that can finish and score. I know Keenan was in there pounding the table for him.”
Nailor could end up as the Vikings WR3 in 2023.
Last year, around this time on the calendar, wide receiver Adam Thielen stated, “I’m kinda hoping coach McCardell stays around because that’s the kind of guy he is.”
“He really made me a better football player this year, and for that reason. If you did something really well, he expected that out of you. [..] I’m standing on the table for him, because he made us, as a receiver unit, better football players.” Thielen added.
Other non-McCardell coaches from O’Connell’s staff are interviewing for offensive coordinator jobs, too. Quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson is in the mix for the Los Angeles Chargers OC gig, while TE coach Brian Angelichio is being considered for the same job in Baltimore.
The Vikings ranked 18th in the NFL this season per offensive EPA/Play.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.