New Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, some two weeks after reaching an agreement with the club to replace Mike Zimmer, can finally wear some purple.
The Vikings officially hired the Rams offensive coordinator on Wednesday. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday night that the two sides were finalizing a deal.
"We are ecstatic to add Kevin as our head coach," Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement. "He is a strong leader, an innovative coach and an excellent communicator. Kevin played the game at all levels, which gives him a unique connection to players, and he is highly respected throughout the league. Vikings fans should be excited for the future of this team under Kevin's direction."
O'Connell's press conference is planned for Thursday, Rapoport added.
Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Feb. 2. that O'Connell was the Vikings' expected choice, but Los Angeles' trip to Super Bowl LVI meant the deal could not be finalized until after the game.
Other finalists for the Vikings job included Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Giants DC Patrick Graham and University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
"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," Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement. "He understands what is critical to leading a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us in problem-solving in all football areas. He is a genuinely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment."
O'Connell embarks upon his first head coaching job after stints as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Commanders, where he served as offensive coordinator in 2019.
O'Connell directed an outstanding Rams offense on his way to a Super Bowl championship, despite losing starting running back Cam Akers for the entire regular season. With veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford delivering a stellar season in his first year with the Rams, the club averaged 372 yards per game (ninth in the NFL) and 27.1 points per game (tied for seventh).
At 36, O'Connell becomes the second-youngest head coach in the NFL behind his former boss, Sean McVay.
He'll look to push a Vikings club that fell short of the postseason in 2021 with an 8-9 record. Most of the Vikings' key free agents play on the defensive side of the ball – among them Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods – but most of the offense will return. As such, the offense O'Connell ran with the Rams, assuming his selection for offensive coordinator installs it, will have the benefit of not only star running back Dalvin Cook, but the Kirk Cousins-Justin Jefferson passing combination that was largely unstoppable last year.
O'Connell's first year with the Vikings will be Cousins' last under his current contract as Minnesota's starting quarterback. Although Cousins will be coming off one of his best seasons statistically, O'Connell and Vikings fans alike will be looking for more from the three-time Pro Bowler whose performances in the biggest games haven't always reflected the $66 million contract extension he signed in 2020.
Cousins threw 33 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions in 2021, which was the best ratio of his career. The team has made the playoffs just once in Cousins' four years with the franchise, however, and have finished the last two seasons under .500.
If Cousins is to be Minnesota's quarterback beyond 2022, his relationship with and development under O'Connell and his offensive staff in just one year will play a key role in it.