When the Minnesota Vikings abandoned the Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer era 6.5 months ago, the team’s ownership promised a collaborative and welcoming atmosphere henceforth.
Accordingly, two young, optimistic men were hired to replace Spielman and Zimmer, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager and Kevin O’Connell as head coach.
And if the NFL was adjudicated by offseason words and pleasantries, the Vikings franchise, on the whole, would be in wonderful shape. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell have been attached at the hip for five months, working in tandem on the backdrop of positivity and open-mindedness.
But football, in fact, isn’t decided by offseason words and warm fuzzies, so when training camp arrived this week, all eyes focused on Eagan, Minnesota, to see just what this coaching staff was all about.
It passed the test, at least on Day One.
A video of O’Connell coaching, motivating, and acting like a genuinely good human hit social media on Wednesday, summoning the aforementioned warm fuzzies — and hype to coincide.
In the video, O’Connell can be seen as the ultimate “good guy,” encouraging and teaching his players, not stuck in a shell of stubbornness or relegating men to a bizarre doghouse. During the Spielman-Zimmer era, winning was actually quite prevalent, as Minnesota ranked as the league’s 10th-best team per wins and losses from 2014 to 2021. However, the 2021 season seemed to devolve toward disharmony and hardheadedness.
Unless the video is a big show for the camera — it’s not — the Vikings have systemically changed from “the old way of doing things.” Watching the football team just feels different than a training camp spot from yesteryear. And, to be clear, Zimmer didn’t run bad training camps. This one just provides a different aura, albeit in a 106-second clip.
Now, the hard part. O’Connell must ready his men — and himself — for the stuff that matters. A neat summer video won’t mean anything if the Vikings start the 2022 campaign [of which they renewed all-in Super Bowl stakes once again] with an 0-5 record. Conversely, “Zimmer Ball” might look pretty snazzy if that happens.
At least the early framework has been laid, though. Players are buying into the O’Connell regime, echoing his youthful buoyancy with a filter-down effect. Late in May, wideout Adam Thielen said about the new coaching staff, “When I talk about a breath of fresh air and kind of rejuvenation, it’s because when you get out here, it’s like stuff makes sense and it’s exciting.”
Fast forward two months to training camp, and Thielen appears correct.
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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).