Reports indicated Wednesday night that the Minnesota Vikings are expected to name Kevin O’Connell as their next head coach. O’Connell is currently the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. The hire cannot be made official until after the Rams play the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
The #Vikings are targeting #Rams OC Kevin O’Connell to be their next head coach, per me and @TomPelissero. The hire can’t be official until after the Super Bowl. But it is expected.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 3, 2022
O’Connell was drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots and was expected to serve as the backup to Tom Brady. He was released by New England in August 2019 and as a player he never really became more than a journeyman quarterback. O’Connell’s first major coaching role came in 2017 as the Washington quarterbacks coach under Jay Gruden. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2019, which coincided with Gruden’s firing. O’Connell was credited for developing Dwayne Haskins in his rookie season, but the coach was not retained when Ron Rivera was hired.
When the Rams hired O’Connell ahead of the 2020 season, it seemed that Sean McVay needed someone who could help keep the offense and play calling on track. McVay had been criticized for at times abandoning the run game, and for being overly reliant on play action passing. The Rams’ needed to adapt on offense as defenses had mostly caught up with them, and O’Connell played a big role in shaping version 2.0.
Rather than promoting from within, McVay should look to hire a new voice that can add to the offensive elements that are already in place. The next offensive coordinator should come from the Shanahan coaching tree, which is spreading like wildfire across the NFL - and it’s had a great deal of recent success. The Rams should comb the coaching ranks of the Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and the Cleveland Browns for their next OC.
Here are some early external options that stand out:
Greg Olson, most recently OC for Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have hired Josh McDaniels from the Patriots as their next head coach, which means Greg Olson is likely looking for new work.
Olson is no stranger to the Rams, serving a stint as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams in 2006-2007 under Scott Linehan. Olson was also the quarterbacks coach in McVay’s first season as head coach with Los Angeles, but John Gruden plucked him away the following off-season when Gruden joined the Raiders.
Olson did an exemplary job in the absence of Gruden for most of the 2021 season, coaching Derek Carr to a level of performance that earned the Raiders a trip to the playoffs. He’s a veteran coach that can provide a unique perspective to the LA coaching staff.
Rich Scangarello, QB coach for 49ers
Rich Scangarello is a veteran assistant coach that has spent a great deal of time in the Shanahan tree. He was the quarterbacks coach on Kyle Shanahan’s first 49ers coaching staff (2017-2018) and then was named the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under Vic Fangio in 2019. Scangarello only lasted one season in Denver before he was replaced by Pat Shurmur, and then the coach re-joined the 49ers for the 2021 season. Based on Shurmur’s lack of success with the Broncos, it’s fair to assume that coaching wasn’t the only reason for the lack of production.
Liam Coen, OC for University of Kentucky
Liam Coen is a former member of the McVay coaching staff, having served a two-year stint as assistant wide receivers coach in 2017-2018 and then assistant quarterbacks coach in 2020. Coen left the Rams after the 2020 season to take the role of offensive coordinator with the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats finished 10-3 in Coen’s first season with the team, in part due to solid offensive production.
Being promoted to offensive coordinator of the Rams would be a sizeable jump in only a year, but Coen now has experience installing the McVay system and calling plays. The main question would be if McVay considers Coen an upgrade over current members of his staff.
Charles London, QB coach for Atlanta Falcons
Arthur Smith was hired as the head coach of the Falcons in 2021, and he brought in Charles London from the Chicago Bears to serve as the quarterbacks coach. London worked under Matt Nagy for the 2018-2020 seasons and coached the running back position. Running backs under London were fairly productive in Chicago, as Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery each had breakout seasons as young players.
An intriguing aspect of London as a potential offensive coordinator is that he has a blend of experience coaching both quarterbacks and running backs, which means he could provide value in both the run and passing game. While head coaching hires continue to skew younger and younger, London is only 47 years old and likely has a bright future ahead of him in the coaching ranks.