The Minnesota Vikings spent nine hours with Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday in vain. The Vikings did not extend an offer to the Michigan coach to be the franchise’s next head coach.
“The Vikings are planning to make an offer to Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell to become the team’s next head coach, a source confirmed to The Athletic,” Graff wrote. “This comes on the heels of the news that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be staying with the Wolverines after partaking in an all-day formal interview for the Vikings’ job on Wednesday. Harbaugh wasn’t offered the Vikings job, according to a source.”
O’Connell, 36, can’t officially accept the job until after Super Bowl LVI, Graff said, but the expectation is that he will be announced as head coach shortly after the Rams-Bengals matchup on Feb. 13.
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What Happened With Harbaugh?
While Minnesota’s reputation as a small yet passionate market paired with Harbaugh’s electric persona seemed too good to be true, it wasn’t Harbaugh who turned down the Vikings.
Several reports framed Wednesday’s interview with Harbaugh as merely a formality — that he already had the job locked up. But Harbaugh had to convince the Vikings’ search committee that he would make a good fit for the organization trying to wash its hands of a “fear-based” culture under former head coach Mike Zimmer.
Harbaugh has butted heads with colleagues with the San Francisco 49ers and Michigan. But as one of the winningest NFL coaches in history, boasting a .695 winning percentage and a 44-19-1 record, Harbaugh was eye candy for fans dreaming up a high-risk, high-reward turnaround to the franchise they saw in San Francisco from 2011-14.
He seemed to be a shoo-in for the job, but under the guidance of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the Vikings didn’t allow themselves to go green-eyed.
“For outsiders intoxicated by Harbaugh’s accomplishments and pedigree, it was a stunning result,” Graff wrote on Harbaugh not being offered the position. “For many Vikings insiders, however, it was the logical conclusion to a deliberate process aimed at reshaping how things are done in a franchise that has straddled the line between mediocre and contender for too long.”
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O’Connell ‘Blew Them Away’
When Harbaugh received a preliminary interview with the Vikings on Jan. 29, he was immediately deemed the new favorite for the Vikings’ head coaching gig.
But Minnesota remained diligent, flying out to California to interview San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Rams coordinators Raheem Morris and O’Connell.
Ryans dropped out of the running before his interview, which led some media pundits to believe he had inside knowledge that Harbaugh had the job in the bag.
However, O’Connell apparently won the job over Harbaugh, specifically for his creativity and a nuanced review of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who remains at the center of a keystone decision surrounding the franchise’s future.
“When Ryans withdrew his name from the running, speculation swirled that he knew something, perhaps that the job was being steered toward another candidate. The Vikings’ search committee flew to Los Angeles and interviewed O’Connell and Morris on Monday. Both conversations went well, but O’Connell “blew them away,” according to a source,” Graff wrote. “He had studied the team’s roster from the previous season. He came prepared with ideas on how to improve the team and was able to offer a nuanced review of quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom he coached for one season in Washington.”