Adam Thielen Urges Vikings to Make Coaching Move That Will Keep Star WR Around

Adam Thielen

Getty Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's contract is reaching exorbitant heights in the twilight of his career.

Homegrown Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen knows he’s in the twilight of his career.

He’s already passed the torch of WR1 off to second-year star wideout Justin Jefferson, whose 3,016 receiving yards and 196 catches are the most by any player in the first two years of their NFL career.

And while Thielen braces for his third coaching staff shakeup in Minnesota, he recently gave a strong suggestion to ownership on a coaching decision that would keep Jefferson around in Minnesota in light of a history of talented receivers leaving the Vikings.

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‘I’m Standing on the Table for Him’

Appearing on the Unrestricted with Ben Leber podcast, Thielen discussed the future of the Vikings coaching staff that will likely see many longtime contributors vacated from their posts.

One coach Thielen adamantly said should stay is wide receivers guru Keenan McCardell.

“I’m hoping coach McCardell stays around,” Thielen said. “He really made me a better football player this year. I’m standing on the table for him.”

Thielen added that in conversations with ownership, he suggested the Vikings keep McCardell around for the sake of making Jefferson their next “franchise guy.”

I mentioned that to the owners: ‘Hey, if you want Justin to be your franchise guy, then you better keep that guy (McCardell) around because the relationship they have is so strong,” Thielen said. “He coaches (Jefferson) hard but shows him a ton of love. (Jefferson) takes that coaching so well and really has elevated his game.”

Jefferson has enjoyed a prolific start to his career, but the business side of the NFL will catch up to him soon. He is under contract for two more seasons with a fifth-year option to his deal. However, Jefferson is eligible for a contract extension next offseason. The Vikings should pounce on the opportunity to secure Jefferson to a long-term deal next year,  but the team, which hasn’t had a winning record during Jefferson’s first two years, will have to improve for the 2020 LSU national champion receiver to want to stay in Minnesota.

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McCardell Has Elevated Vikings WR Room

McCardell played 17 years in the NFL and ranks 24th in NFL history with 883 receptions. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and has channeled his playing career into a coaching style that has elevated the Minnesota wide receivers room in less than a calendar year.

Before McCardell, the Vikings had been void of a true third wide receiver. That changed this in 2021.

K.J. Osborn, a 2020 fifth-round pick, didn’t play a single offensive snap his rookie year but springboarded to an impressive sophomore season, catching 50 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns, including an overtime game-winner against the Carolina Panthers.

Fourth-round rookie speedster Ihmir Smith-Marsette also emerged late in the season, scoring two touchdowns and catching four of five targets for 110 yards in the Vikings’ final three games.

Thielen credited McCardell for instilling a workmanlike mentality in the receivers — treating every rep like a game situation.

“I’ve never seen people practice the way that guys did this year, as far as the receivers group. Coach McCardell —just his mindset, he played 17 years in the NFL — there’s a reason why he did that and had success for so long,” Thielen said. “That was pretty cool to see guys approach practice — having fun — competing. That’s leadership when you can get guys to treat practice like a game.”

The wide receivers room gave a resounding approval of McCardell on social media. Jefferson shared a post on Thielen’s praise of McCardell saying, “Factssss must stay!”

Smith-Marsette and practice-squad receiver Trishton Jackson also reshared the post, calling McCardell the best.

Stefon Diggs is one of the first players to tout McCardell’s teaching, saying he was one of the best coaches he’s ever had while at Maryland.

“Coach McCardell was the best coach I’ve ever had, because he taught me how to play receiver. He taught me the smallest details on running routes. He taught me suddenness, he taught me breaks. He didn’t teach me how to catch; he said, ‘We’re going to work on getting you open and creating separation,’ because everybody wants separation. I don’t care you are, I don’t care what quarterback you are, I don’t care what level you’re at, everybody wants to see separation,” Diggs said in a 2018 interview with the Star Tribune. “He taught me how to get open, essentially, and that’s why I hold him to such a high standard. He saw me as a raw talent: I can run, I’ve got good speed, I’m quick, but let’s tailor that into something that will take you farther.”

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