Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell only threw six passes as an NFL quarterback.
The 2008 third-round pick’s playing career never panned out as he’d planned.
He still made an impact.
Vikings team reporter Eric Smith spoke with several former players and coaches who crossed paths with O’Connell along his journey to becoming a head coach in the NFL and gathered an interesting anecdote involving the man who drafted him, Bill Belichick.
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‘You’re Going to Be One Hell of a Coach One Day’
O’Connell, speaking with Smith, reflected on his brief playing career that was the launchpad for his rise to becoming the league’s second-youngest coach at the age of 36 — seven months older than Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay.
Selected in the third round of the 2018 draft by the New England Patriots, O’Connell saw the only NFL regular-season action in his five-year playing career in his rookie season, playing in two games in a relief role.
“I’ve used this joke before, but my career as a player provided a great platform for me as a coach because I did spend a lot of time watching games from the sideline,” O’Connell said in his first press conference as head coach on February 17, per Smith. “I will say that with that becomes the ability to see the game in a way that I feel very prepared to call the game.”
The Patriots released O’Connell in the 2009 offseason. He was picked up by the Detroit Lions, who later traded him to the New York Jets, where he first met recently appointed Vikings assistant head coach and then-Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Pettine reflected on O’Connell’s two-year stint in New York, where he was marred by injury but named a team captain as the team’s backup quarterback behind Mark Sanchez. Pettine said that in passing, Belicheck, who had been a part of a New England regime that released O’Connell, had nothing but high praise for his leadership and football IQ.
“First impression? I heard it from the [Jets] offensive staff before I really connected with him because I was on the defensive side. I kept hearing, ‘This guy is sharp as hell.’ Then we were …read more