Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell Makes Strong Statement on Future at Backup QB

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr.'s future with the team is in serious doubt, an insider revealed.

All the optimism surrounding Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Kellen Mond was zapped on Saturday night.

Coming off an encouraging preseason debut against the Las Vegas Raiders, Mond fell flat, completing 10 of 20 passes for 82 yards and throwing two interceptions for a 21.3 quarterback rating in a 17-7 preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers on August 20.

Mond, an unproven NFL quarterback entering his second season, has been the only viable option to bank on as the fill-in for Kirk Cousins. Sean Mannion, a six-year veteran, has shown his ceiling which won’t be enough if Minnesota has ambitions of winning the NFC North.

However, when asked about his playcalling against the 49ers, Kevin O’Connell did not offer much encouragement or confidence in his backup quarterbacks — signaling that the Vikings are open to looking outside the organization.

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O’Connell Comment Adds Confirmation to Search for Backup QB

In an August 18 postgame press conference following the 49ers loss, O’Connell spoke of the confidence he has in several position groups — namely the running backs and second-team offensive line.

But when asked about his playcalling, which was largely conservative with Mond and Mannion under center, O’Connell admitted to feeling the need to protect the backups.

“Theres some times where you’re having some dialogue with the staff on plays you’d like to get to for certain guys and then simply it’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t want this guy’s next throw to be a 3rd and 6 so I’m trying to throw some quick-gain throws, some screens to put the ball in play to try and get in that rhythm… Selfishly, for their sake, you want to help them get in that rhythm so maybe playcalling tends to sway that way,” O’Connell said.

In the same breath, O’Connell added that he has confidence in the rest of the second-team offense to compliment whoever is under center but hinted at the uncertainty at backup quarterback.

“But ultimately I got a lot of confidence in our running backs a lot of confidence coming off last week in our depth at the O-line, especially that second group to go run the football,” O’Connell added. “I’m trying to still figure out some things in other areas of our team that weigh heavily in some of the decisions we make.”

Purple Insider’s Sam Ekstrom saw the comment as confirmation that the Vikings are open to the idea of looking outside the organization for a backup quarterback after an earlier report from ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

“Kevin O’Connell tiptoes delicately around a question about his confidence in the backup QBs,” Ekstrom tweeted during the press conference. “Reading between the lines, seems clear they are open to the idea of looking outside the organization.”

Before the preseason opener against the Raiders, Seifert reported that Minnesota is “very open” to the idea that the backup to Cousins is not on the roster currently.

“My understanding is that internally they are very open to the possibility that the backup quarterback isn’t on the roster,” Seifert said, via Vikings Territory editor Sean Borman. There are two factors there; how do these guys (Mond and Mannion) perform and who’s potentially available.”

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Vikings Have Looked at Other QBs

The Vikings doubled down on Mond and Mannion after they cut 2020 seventh-round pick Nate Stanley before training camp. Instead of entering training camp with the typical four quarterbacks on the depth chart, Minnesota opted to roster just three and give Mond and Mannion as many opportunities in practice as possible.

But after nearly a month of training camp and two preseason games, the new regime seems to have a clear picture of their quarterback room.

“You would love to have come out of tonight feeling like, ‘Shoot, they both moved the team and scored a lot of points, and we’ve got a heck of a hard discussion and conversation ahead as a staff and as an organization.’,” O’Connell said, per The Athletic’s Arif Hasan. “Although we didn’t do that, I still think there’s some real teachable moments, and then some real moments where we’re able to evaluate and really look at where we are at that position, as we re-stack everything to go into this week, to see how we need to allow those guys to compete.”

The Vikings worked out Kevin Hogan on August 4 and also had veteran quarterback Brett Hundley in for a workout during rookie minicamps. No move has been made, but with the regular-season opener less than a month away, Minnesota ought to offer at the very least an invitation for a workout soon.

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