Vikings HC Kevin O’Connell on Brink of Decision That Could Cost Him Job

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are approaching a franchise crossroads, while head coach Kevin O’Connell faces a pivot point in his career.

O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah first allowed quarterback Kirk Cousins to walk in free agency rather than overpay him. Their next decision involved the choice not to pursue a proven free agent, such as Baker Mayfield, and roll instead with Sam Darnold — a former No. 3 overall pick relegated to backup duties with the San Francisco 49ers last season.

Their third decision was to sacrifice considerable draft capital — second-rounders in 2024 and 2025, along with a sixth-round pick this year — to acquire an extra 2024 first-round pick (No. 23 overall) from the Houston Texans. O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah presumably made that call in an effort to build out a competitive offer to trade into the top five and draft a franchise QB.

Precisely how high the Vikings can get in the draft, who their trade partner will be and which quarterback they will ultimately select all remain unknowns. Two things, however, appear likely: the decision will define the course of the franchise and its head coach for years to come, both in terms of who the franchise quarterback is and how O’Connell is able to develop him.

“Kevin O’Connell … he’s the X factor. And if he fails here, it will cost him his job. But until he fails, I’m going to assume he knows what he’s doing,” Judd Zulgad of SKOR North said on Tuesday, March 26. “So I’m going to give this administration, and O’Connell especially, the benefit of the doubt to say, ‘You know what? Whoever they get their hands on, they’re going to give this kid a hell of a lot more chance than a lot of guys have had who went in the draft.'”

Vikings Could Get as High as No. 3 Pick in NFL Draft via Trade With Patriots

Jerod Mayo could welcome Jacoby Brissett as the the "bridge" Patriots quarterback.

GettyNew England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo.

The Chicago Bears own the top pick and don’t appear likely to trade out of the chance to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams. The Washington Commanders are poised to select a quarterback with pick No. 2, though the franchise is at least listening to offers from teams interested in moving up.

Darren Wolfson of KSTP talked with Zulgad on Tuesday. According to Wolfson, league sources are split on the Commanders’ plans at No. 2. However, the New England Patriots — who own the third overall selection — are viable trade partners for the Vikings.

“If I had to bet right now — okay, so it’s reckless speculation Thursday on a Tuesday — the Vikings don’t get up to [pick No. 2],” Wolfson said. “But I do think getting up to [pick No. 3] New England is very much in play.”

The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers — who select at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively — are also potential trade partners for Minnesota if the team can’t get into the top three.

Vikings Will Try to Get to No. 3 to Guarantee Top-4 Prospect, Give Kevin O’Connell Options at QB

GettyNFL draft quarterback prospects (from left) Caleb Williams, J.J. McCarthy, Jayden Daniels and Michael Penix Jr.

Trading with the Patriots accomplishes two things that would be beneficial to the Vikings and to O’Connell, as he coaches for his job and reputation as a head coach/quarterback guru over the next two or three seasons.

The first is that it guarantees Minnesota a top-four prospect. There is legitimate debate as to Williams and whether he is in a class of his own, or is part of a group of first-tier quarterbacks in 2024 that also includes Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy. However, there is almost unanimous agreement that the the cut line between first- and second-tier quarterbacks should be drawn after those four players come off the board this April.

The second thing the Vikings can guarantee themselves by trading for the third overall pick is a choice between two of those top four players. If Minnesota ends up picking fourth, O’Connell may find himself saddled with a QB he might not have chosen first, second or even third out of the top four guys at the position. If the Vikings end up picking fifth, they run the risk of not landing any of the top four quarterbacks at all.

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