The Minnesota Vikings introduced Kevin O'Connell as their new head coach on Thursday afternoon after a long search to replace Mike Zimmer.
O'Connell thanked the Wilf family and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for the opportunity, who beamed about the process and the potential of his new head coach.
"I think we interviewed multiple future head coaches," Adofo-Mensah said. "But we're excited about the guy sitting next to me and what we have."
O'Connell comes from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, where he was an offensive coordinator. Shortly after being introduced, O'Connell drew on that experience and vowed to bring it to the Vikings.
"Knowing how hard it is to win in this league and coming from an organization where we were just able to accomplish the ultimate goal in winning a Super Bowl, I know what it takes," O'Connell said. "I've seen it. I've experienced it and I know how hard it can be. But if you have the right kind of people with you, the right ownership, the right leadership structure...and I know we have the right kind of players in this building already [that] we can accomplish a lot of special things."
Unsurprisingly, much of the early questions from the media concerned quarterback Kirk Cousins. After working with Cousins as his quarterbacks coach in Washington during the 2017 season, O'Connell praised his skill set and stressed the importance of utilizing his accuracy.
"Kirk's played at a very high level and he's done a lot of things throughout his career," O'Connell said. "[We want to] focus on the things Kirk does well, and help him on a daily basis connect with his team, lead us ... putting him in the best possible situation as we can for success."
"We're focused on building the team around him to set him up to succeed as best we can," Adofo-Mensah added.
When asked if Cousins would be the starting quarterback for the 2022 season, O'Connell again stressed the importance of supporting him in the offense.
"I know he's under contract and I'm excited to coach him," O'Connell said. "I've already started to think about how we're going to build those systems for him ... it takes all 11 to move the football on offense to run it. I anticipate Kirk being part of what we do."
O'Connell was also asked about the type of defense he wants to run. The Vikings made the hiring of Ed Donatell official earlier on Thursday but O'Connell said he expects to have a multiple front.
He also stated that there are talented players at all three levels and specifically praised Harrison Smith.
"I think he's the perfect player for the defensive structure we want to play," O'Connell said. "From a standpoint of the coverage, how we want to make all things look the same, he's got great length, he's got great instincts. He's going to be a problem for people in the middle of the field and the line of scrimmage."
O'Connell also mentioned several defensive players including Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks while mentioning the talented roster but did not mention Danielle Hunter, who has an $18 million roster bonus due on Mar. 20.
With the Vikings currently $14.4 million over the salary cap, some moves will have to be made – especially if they want to keep Cousins. But as it stands now, O'Connell believes he has a roster that can contend.
“There’s a very talented roster already in place here," O'Connell said. "I don't [think this team is that far away from achieving its ultimate goal.]"