Minnesota Vikings new head coach Kevin O'Connell takes over a club that missed the postseason the past two seasons with losing records and hasn't won the NFC North since 2017. But the former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator believes there is a foundation in place to compete right away.
"Trying to win championships here is the goal," O'Connell said Thursday during his introductory press conference. "… There's so much to be drawn from this opportunity for me. Like I said, the amazing ownership, there's a very talented roster already in place here, a lot of really, really good football players that will play, that have played at a high level, and I'm so excited in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams, to get to work with these guys and help put them in the best possible situation to have success."
O'Connell spoke glowingly of quarterback Kirk Cousins, believing he's a player the team can win with. There are other pieces like receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Eric Kendricks and edge rusher Danielle Hunter, among others, for Minnesota to build from.
The Vikings' biggest issue last season was a flagging defense that struggled for long stretches in Mike Zimmer's final season, ranking 24th in points allowed and 30th in total yards. It's an area Minnesota will need to invest in this offseason.
Like a host of teams, the Vikings sit pressed against the salary cap, which could bring tough questions, starting with what to do with Cousins' contract situation.
But after winning a Super Bowl in L.A., O'Connell sees the building blocks of a championship-level team in Minnesota.
"To Vikings fans, I just want to let you know, you'll get everything I absolutely have on an every-single-day basis," he said. "Knowing how hard it is to win in this league and having come from an organization where we were just able to accomplish the ultimate goal in winning a Super Bowl, I know what it takes. I've seen it. I've experienced it, and I know how hard it can be, but I know if you've got the right kind of people with you, the right ownership, the right leadership structure with you, and I know we have the right kind of players in this building already, we can accomplish a lot, a lot of really special things."
The 2021 Vikings finished 8-9, with eight of those losses coming by eight or fewer points.