The first year under Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been a success. Has it been perfect? No. Have there been mistakes? Yes. But given the Minnesota Vikings season, it can already be labeled as successful.
Even if they get bounced in the first round of the playoffs? Yes.
This Team Has Bought into O’Connell’s Culture
The primary goals coming into the year were for the Vikings to be competitive under O’Connell’s leadership and for the culture to improve from what it was under Zimmer. It’s fair to say both of those goals have been exceeded beyond possible expectations.
Forget competitive. This team locked up the NFC North with four games left to play and has coasted to a 13-4 record. They now look poised to begin a playoff run that, at the very least, starts with a very winnable home game, and who knows how far they could actually go given the type of magic they’ve experienced this season.
This 2022 Vikings Season Is Already Successful
But more important than competitiveness in 2022 was how Kevin O’Connell would implant his values and whether his emphasis on communication and collaboration would produce positive dividends so early into his tenure.
Well, those questions have been answered emphatically. As for that culture? We have evidence from every nook and cranny of the Vikings that this culture has flipped positively and incredibly. See: fiery and emotional locker room speeches from O’Connell that breed positivity and love for the team.
Or the resilience and coolness this team has shown weekly in numerous comebacks and victories decided in the 4th quarter:
Or the press conferences given by players who endlessly praise the atmosphere around the team and the type of culture KOC has built.
These are the types of intangibles of a team that can’t be measured but make a massive impact. So, going forward, whether in the playoffs this season or in the seasons to come, we can have strong confidence that this organization is in great hands with Kevin O’Connell.
Superstars to Build Around
Coming into the year, there were questions about whether Christian Darrisaw could take the next step at left tackle. Well, not only did he take a step forward, he took a bunch of them. Darrisaw’s performance this season has left no doubts about the future for the tackle position in Minnesota, as the Vikings now look to be set at both tackle spots for years to come.
We knew Justin Jefferson was a star coming into the year, but his play this year exceeded the expectations of all but his most ardent supporters. Coming into the year, Jefferson was a bona fide elite receiver, but now he has staked his claim as a franchise cornerstone superstar, someone to build your team around.
Outside of quarterback, there aren’t any better positions to have superstars to build around than left tackle and wide receiver. Those positions will be set regardless of what happens with this roster going forward.
A Strong Relationship between HC and GM
A significant issue in the Spielman-Zimmer era was a fractured and inconsistent relationship between Head Coach and GM. When those two people are the most important in your organization, that tends to be a major issue. But so far, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell have demonstrated a solid and amicable relationship, highlighted by the Vikings midseason acquisition of tight end TJ Hockenson, a move that shows a significant level of trust between GM and head coach.
Adofo-Mensah moved a 2nd round pick –- significant draft capital in today’s NFL -– to acquire a piece that O’Connell wanted. That is the type of relationship that bodes well for these Vikings in the future. We can trust that their relationship will pay dividends in free agency, in the draft, and into next season, and it is a relationship poised to grow even stronger in the future.
Entering the 2022 season, if you were told the Vikings were to be competitive throughout that season, Jefferson and Darrisaw both took leaps to superstardom, and the team bought in fully to Kevin O’Connell as head coach, would you have labeled that as a successful season?
Yes, you would have. We all would have.
Nobody expected O’Connell to come into Minnesota, not just as a rookie head coach, but also as a rookie play caller, and lead this team to the playoffs. But he’s done that and more, as the Vikings have cruised to a division title, a home playoff game, and the franchise’s 3rd ever 13+ win season.
Nobody in their wildest dreams thought the Vikings would clinch the NFC North title in Week 15. Minnesota wasn’t even expected to compete with Green Bay. So regardless of how this season finishes, the Minnesota Vikings had a great 2022 season, and the arrow is pointing up for an even better future.