The Soundbite that Makes Kevin O’Connell Sound an Awful Lot Like Mike Zimmer

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Very few could mistake Kevin O’Connell for Mike Zimmer in a press conference. More often than not, O’Connell is chatty and willing to expand on his rationale whereas Zimmer was known for being somewhat terse and abrupt in his responses.

Now, that’s not to say that the former head coach didn’t have his charm. When he wanted to, Zimmer could be quite engaging and funny, but his all-business approach — especially when his team was struggling — sometimes led to the defensive mastermind not giving fulsome answers to the Minnesota media.

Questions Answered: Roster Cut Surprises, Thought on Zimmer's New Job, Jim Marshall
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

On Monday, O’Connell met with the media. Predictably, the team’s issues surrounding ball security came up, prompting the response that could have caused a bit of a double take for who was standing at the microphone.

O’Connell insists that the fumbling solution will rest in the current players fixing their ball security issues or being replaced: “[it’s] something that we’re going to fix one way or another. Either guys are going to do it, or we’re going to have to put other guys in the game that have ball security.”

Kevin O’Connell, Mike Zimmer, and a Reminiscent Media Moment

O’Connell can be relentlessly positive. Presumably, that’s part of what made him appealing to the Wilfs when they transitioned to a new coaching staff in 2022.

Vikings OTAs
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) is congratulated by head coach Kevin O’Connell after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Zimmer could be difficult to play for, so the hope was that bringing in a new voice with a new perspective would breathe new life into TCO Performance Center. In 2022, that hope led to a 13-4 record as the Vikings cruised to an NFC North title, seemingly justifying the decision to move away from an older, gruff, defensive mind in favor of a younger, charming, offensive mind.

Fast forward to 2023 and all the positivity in the world won’t change the reality of where the Vikings find themselves. At 0-3, the Vikings are one more loss away from matching last season’s total for the entire year. In fact, the Vikings didn’t experience a fourth loss until January 1st of 2023 when the Packers shut them down at Lambeau.

If things don’t improve in a hurry, the Vikings will get their fourth loss before getting out of September.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Chargers safety Alohi Gilman (32) strips the ball from Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Excellent players and team leaders like Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Alexander Mattison are all giving up the football. Replacing the running back isn’t without some challenges but is relatively feasible. The other three? Not as much. The QB1, WR1, and TE1 are being relied on to form a terrific trio that propels Minnesota past the growing pains of a rebuilding defense and into contention.

O’Connell has no recourse but to continue emphasizing the importance of working hard, doing things the right way, and tidying up the performance across all three phases of the game. Does that sound at all familiar?

“We need to end every snap with the football in our hands,” O’Connell notes, “and that’s going to be continued urgency and emphasis like it was last week, and we’re going to continue to do it and do it differently and emphasize it in different ways until that value is received.”

Minnesota takes on Adam Thielen and the Panthers this Sunday. The game takes place in Carolina and will begin at 12 p.m. CDT.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.

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