Why Kevin O’Connell is what the Vikings needed in Mike Zimmer

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kevin O'Connell
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kevin O'Connell /

With the Minnesota Vikings Week 1 win against the Green Bay Packers, head coach Kevin O’Connell showed he was what was needed from Mike Zimmer.

The Minnesota Vikings exited Week 1 with a glorious 1-0 mark after beating the rival Green Bay Packers 23-7, showing signs of an offense that many might not have even known existed. With the ability of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to throw the long ball to deep-threat Justin Jefferson, fans and the Packers defense saw a side of the 34-year-old that wasn’t as utilized with former Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer, who was fired after last season, leaned on a run-first approach with Minnesota running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. While the occasional deep shot was taken by Cousins, it was never in Zimmer’s primary philosophy that he wanted for his team. Instead, the run game and a defense-heavy focus would look to bleed the game out, rather than attack from the start.

While there is the notion that Zimmer never wanted Cousins, and the signing was more on former Vikings general manager Rick Speilman, the former head coach was still responsible for coaching the team that was given to him in the four years after the quarterback was signed. But the lack of input on the offensive side of the ball and the fear-based culture he had reportedly established during the end of his tenure was enough to start a new chapter in Minnesota.

With a new chapter, comes Kevin O’Connell, who is what the Minnesota Vikings needed Mike Zimmer to be

The contrast of play from Week 1 with Kevin O’Connell in charge compared to the Zimmer era is quite noticeable on offense, and the 3-4 defensive approach also held its ground against Green Bay.

While there were moments where the Vikings linebackers looked lost in coverage, the pass rush did its job and held the Packers to a single touchdown.

This is exactly what Minnesota needed Zimmer to be during his time as the team’s head coach. A coach that could bring the best out of the quarterback they’ve clearly committed to while keeping an open mind on every other facet of the team. While Zimmer had successful years, the change has already created a breath of fresh air for the Vikings.

Time will tell how long the sustainability of this new approach will last, but after Week 1, Minnesota has something to look forward to, and with a 1-0 start for the first time since 2019, it’s a glimmer of hope that the Twin Cities needed.

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