As Kevin O’Connell enters his second season, he has already established himself in Vikings lore with a strong first year campaign and his impact has been established not just on the field, but off the gridiron as well. Is it too early to be crowning O’Connell as an all-time great for Minnesota? Maybe but he’s well on his way there already. For the second year Vikings Head Coach, O’Connell has done a phenomenal job providing leadership for his team in 2022 in route to a 13-3 record. That historic mark alone gave him the status of being one of only three coaches to achieve a 13-3 record in their first season (shared with John Harbaugh and Steve Mariucci). That record also helped top Vikings legend Dennis Green’s franchise record of 11-5. After just one season he’s made history, but can he do it again? Here are three potential historic marks that could help further O’Connell’s legacy even though he’s only in his second year.
Win the Super Bowl
It’s no secret Minnesota has had their fair share of heartbreak and currently being one of two teams to have the most Super Bowl losses without a win is one of them. (The other is Buffalo, but at least Minnesota didn’t go to four straight and lose all four). If O’Connell can replicate his late game heroics again in 2023, Minnesota could be on their way to a playoff berth and a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. If the second-year man can get his team over the proverbial playoff hump, Minnesota could be playing football in February. With a top tier offense and an improved defense, the reality is there, however, this may be the most far-fetched. Still, it would be a historic mark for the Vikings head coach.
Claim the NFC North, Again
The most realistic option comes with another NFC North crown. Green Bay has been the team most recently and consistently to win the NFC North division title in back-to-back seasons. However, O’Connell could make history by becoming just the third franchise coach to win consecutive division titles, joining Hall-of-Famer Bud Grant and the embattled Brad Childress. Though it doesn’t seem like a hard feat it has long eluded Minnesota’s franchise. The North has ran through Green Bay and Chicago over the last few decades, with Minnesota scattered in (but not Detroit, who hasn’t won the division since 1993). That said, the division is wide open this year and a repeat division title is in the cards. If O’Connell can get his squad to develop and perform, he could continue to make strides in Minnesota legend.
Acquire the #1 Overall Pick in the 2024 NFL Draft
Less positive but finishing with the worst record in the league and consequently the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft would be a historic moment for the Vikings and O’Connell as well. The Vikings have only had the first pick twice in their franchise history: once in 1961 during their expansion season, and once in 1968 when they traded Fran Tarkenton to the Giants for the first pick. Minnesota has never earned the first pick, and with a disastrous season, O’Connell could become the first coach to do so. Would he lose his job? Maybe, but if the one score games go in the opposite direction as compared to last season it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Luckily, that would net Minnesota the Heisman winner and projected top pick Caleb Williams. Though sad at first, this option would make history in multiple ways.