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Lunchbreak: ESPN Gives Vikings High Marks for O'Connell Hire

It's official: Kevin O'Connell is the new head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

The team made the announcement late Wednesday morning, naming O'Connell as the 10th head coach in franchise history.

Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN reacted to the news, giving the Vikings high grades for bringing O'Connell on board.

Fowler, who gave Minnesota an "A" grade, wrote:

Consider the fit. O'Connell is a change of pace from Mike Zimmer, a really good coach and tough personality who grated on the locker room toward the end. O'Connell should be able to handle player relations while boosting an offense that hasn't had an offensive head coach since Brad Childress in 2010. Minnesota was looking for leadership qualities above all else, and the consensus was O'Connell has those, even if he might be "a year away," a phrase used often with young head-coaching candidates, due to lack of experience. The Vikings are OK with that.

Graziano handed out a "B+" grade to the Vikings:

Again, grading down a bit due to lack of experience. As was the case with Chicago, I'm a little leery of pairing a first-time head coach with a first-time GM. But I've never heard anything but good stuff about O'Connell as a coach, and a lot of people would have to be wrong about him for him to be a flop.

View photos of new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell in photos from his time with the Rams.

Both pundits also offered their takes about what O’Connell will bring to the Vikings, who have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and haven't been above .500 since the end of the 2019 season.

Fowler wrote:

O'Connell, 36, was considered the most impressive candidate from the first round of interviews, and he kept up his momentum during the in-person interview. So, really, after the Jim Harbaugh theatrics, the Vikings search landed where it started. O'Connell's knowledge of the Vikings scheme, personnel and his overall presence impressed the team. He came across as well-prepared, with an answer for everything thrown their way. The Vikings wanted a young, up-and-coming coach. They feel that way about O'Connell, who has the right demeanor for the job.

Graziano added:

Yeah, O'Connell's name is one we've heard a bunch in recent years as an up-and-comer, and being the Rams offensive coordinator under Sean McVay sure isn't a bad way to go if you want to become a head coach. O'Connell will be the fourth former McVay assistant to be a head coach in the NFL, joining the Packers Matt LaFleur, the Bengals Zac Taylor and the Chargers Brandon Staley. Staley just went 9-8 in his first year as coach of the Chargers, LaFleur has won more games (39) in his first three seasons than any coach in [NFL] history, and Taylor just took the Bengals to the Super Bowl (against McVay). What's even more amazing is that the 36-year-old McVay is still younger than all of these guys.

Fowler and Graziano graded all nine NFL head coaching hires.

Although O'Connell was the last to be officially announced, he was among the head coaches who received the highest marks as he begins this new journey with the Vikings.

Kendricks' love for cars highlighted at Super Bowl event

Eric Kendricks was in Los Angeles this past weekend. He certainly would have preferred to be focusing on the Super Bowl.

But the Vikings linebacker – and California native — turned to one of his other passions instead, attending a rare but fun car show in Southern California.

Mark Vaughn, who writes for Autoweek, highlighted the Cars and Coffee event that Kendricks showed visited.

Vaughn wrote:

This particular Cars and Coffee was a little more organized and better-funded than most. An organization called Auto Conduct has been "curating" car gatherings in Los Angeles (home of Super Bowl LVI!) for several years. The idea is that organizers pick a theme, choose 10 or 15 cars that fit the theme, then kick back and see whatever else shows up. They've had now 20 of them, maybe, and they show no signs of slowing down.

So for the day before Super Bowl Sunday, they picked the theme, "Cars and Coffee Championship."

View the best linebacker photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

Vaughn wrote that Kendricks went a bit unnoticed at first before people started recognizing him from his on-field accolades.

It may be kind of hard to tie a Cars and Coffee into a Super Bowl, but that'll work. Plus, having a real live, NFL player on hand was a big plus, a 6'0" 232-pound plus, which is where Eric Kendricks came in. He is one of Bridgestone's NFL Athlete Ambassadors, and as soon as you meet him you can see why they picked him — there's about a 150-watt smile and an easy willingness to talk to just about anyone.

"This is my fun away from the field," Kendricks said, as fans realized who he was and started gathering around. "I really enjoy cars, really enjoy Cars and Coffee. I really enjoy driving."

Kendricks, who was one of the judges at the event, arrived in his Fox-body Mustang, one of multiple cars that he owns.

Vaughn's full story can be found here.

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