SAN DIEGO – Multiple reports say the Minnesota Vikings plan to hire Kevin O’Connell as their next head coach.
The La Costa Canyon High School and San Diego State graduate has spent the past two years as the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. Because O’Connell and the Rams have this little obligation called the Super Bowl one week from Sunday, he can’t officially accept the Vikings’ job until after Feb. 13.
O’Connell graduated from La Costa Canyon in 2003. He played at SDSU where he served as team captain in all four years and then spent five years in the NFL, bouncing around with five teams as a backup quarterback.
The 36-year-old has served as an NFL assistant for seven years, either as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator.
O’Connell spoke to FOX 5’s Troy Hirsch this week to discuss the interview process with NFL teams, what he’s learned, and the mad dash for tickets to Super Bowl LVI.
Troy Hirsch: When you and I spoke in the fall, I kind of asked you if you had any aspirations of becoming a head coach. I think at that time you said, ‘I’ve got my hands full with my young kids and my family and obviously this job here.’ Now your name is being linked to jobs across the NFL, including the Vikings. What have you learned from this process?
O’Connell: “It’s a great question, Troy. Really what I can say is your name coming up in this process is one thing but to actually get in the room with some really, really great football people from some other organizations, you really have to pitch your vision and really center your focus on what you’re going to be like as a head coach, what you want the characteristics of your team to be like, what you want your coaching staff to be like, the culture you want to set. All of those things.
“It’s exciting because it’s really forced me to realize I’ve been in a great situation here in L.A. I’ve been in some great situations as a player and a coach previously. That has led to my football philosophy being what it is and something I can really believe in. It’s easy to sell that vision when it’s a reality and it’s something you truly believe in your inner core of how you want to operate and how you want your team to look when they go compete It’s helped me to grow from that standpoint, really centering my focus on what that would look like.
“Getting a chance to compete for one of 32 jobs in our great league, it’s an honor that I don’t take lightly at all. I’m very thankful for this whole process and we’ll see if I can figure out a way to get one of these things.”
TH: What is the philosophy you pitched?
KO: “You know, I think there’s some layers to it. I think there’s a football philosophy where you have an idea of how you want to go win games, how you want your offense, defense and special teams to play specifically. But from an overall standpoint, learning what I’ve learned from some great coaches about taking care of the football, being great in situational football, having the schematic advantage that you feel great about but also knowing you’re going to win with the people you have and getting the right kind of guys who do love football, that do work tirelessly at it. In the end, coaching really hard to have great fundamentals and techniques on what you’re trying to get done and getting guys to understand they’ve got to play with great energy and finish everything they do when it’s as competitive as it is in our league.
“Every blade of grass matters. Every inch of a play sometimes matters and it comes down to that. Sometimes it’s just one play on a Sunday that determines much more than just that Sunday’s outcome. It can determine your fate to make or not get into the playoffs or potentially to be able to go to a Super Bowl.
“You look at how every small detail matters and when you can pitch that vision and the importance of that, I think you get the best out of guys around you.”
TH: Take me back to when you were a kid, even before La Costa Canyon High School. Were you dreaming of playing in the Super Bowl or coaching in the Super Bowl or just getting to the Super Bowl?
KO: “Yeah, I think I’d be lying if I said I was dreaming of coaching in a Super Bowl at that point in my life. We all, we’re in the backyard pretending to be Joe Montana or John Elway, Brett Favre. You’re dreaming of being that guy. There wasn’t a lot better feeling than I’ve had professionally as a player or coach to when we realized we could kneel it out the other day and I could tell Matthew Stafford that he was going to the Super Bowl. Knowing how much he’s worked, knowing the amount of just his career and what it’s meant to him to come to us here in L.A. and kind of making our whole organization better.
“All the hard work that went into it to see him reach that moment of hey we’re actually going to the Super Bowl with a chance to win this whole thing, that was a really special moment for me.”
TH: How exciting is it for you right now to be in this situation?
KO: “It’s everything. It’s everything we work for. Obviously, this whole experience for me over the past two years with the Rams has been phenomenal. We’ve won a lot of games, felt like we were a team capable of being able to accomplish this ultimate goal, which is to win this final game we’ll play in. But to actually make it through really three playoff games against some really good teams and find our way into this Super Bowl at SoFi, it’s hard to explain, but it makes you want to work that much harder for your guys to make sure we have a great plan. We’re playing a really good team and it’s going to be a hectic challenge.”
TH: What kind of ticket requests are you getting knowing that you’re a Southern California kid?
KO: “Definitely getting a few. I’m glad we’ve been able to have a lot of folks at the games this year, getting a lot of people that mean a whole heck of a lot to me and my family to the games. Obviously, my family is still living in San Diego so they come up. My mom, my dad, my sister and her family, they come up every game it seems like. It’s been a really, really special experience obviously with COVID last year and not getting to have anybody at games. This year, we’ve really tried to make the most of it.
“Through this whole round and getting to host the NFC Championship Game was a special experience. I thought maybe the ticket requests would not be what they are, but a lot of people want to come to the game and be a part of it, which I totally understand. But unfortunately, it’s not an unlimited process to this thing and those tickets are expensive.
“We’re going to try to get everybody we can into that stadium.”