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From Speed Dating to Lasting Impressions, Daniels & McCardell Appreciate NFL Coach Accelerator

Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels
Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings know what they have in Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels and receivers coach Keenan McCardell.

Now, so do more owners and leaders from other NFL teams.

Daniels and McCardell were two of 40 coaches recommended and selected to participate in the NFL's Coach Accelerator program as part of the Spring League Meeting, which was hosted by Minnesota at Omni Viking Lakes.

The program is a continuation of promoting greater diversity across the NFL and follows the inaugural Coach and Front Office Accelerator that was hosted last May in Atlanta and the Front Office Accelerator hosted by Dallas last December.

It was the first time for Daniels and McCardell to participate in the accelerator, a fitting word for an event that included a variant of "speed dating" between participants and leaders of teams, as well as guest speakers and tips.

"It was awesome, an unbelievable experience. Grateful for the opportunity," Daniels said Wednesday. "We kind of did a speed-dating, round-robin table with select owners. We had three rotations with two ownership executives, and we would do a 30-minute, not necessarily a mock interview but more so a conversation with them. You realize these billionaires and high-influence, major powers are just normal people who enjoy and love football.

"You get a good insight into what the interview process is like, what type of individuals they're seeking, what qualities and personalities, what does the vision look like for the team that they want to be at the helm, so you get a good inclination of how you should prepare for the interview and what individuals they're looking," Daniels continued.

Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell

McCardell smiled broadly when asked about the speed dating portion of the event.

"It was a great time because you got a chance to date this one, this one and see the difference [in teams]," McCardell said. "I was trying to be as authentic as I could be in every situation."

Former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson was one of the guest speakers McCardell appreciated learning from.

Many head coaches are fed from offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator positions, but McCardell and Daniels both aspire for that role someday. The interaction opportunities provided a way for the coaches to authentically put their best feet forward and share their visions for how they'd handle expanded roles.

"I think it does open their eyes, especially when you're able to sit down with them and communicate with them a little bit on what your vision looks like, what your coaching philosophy is, how do you teach and develop players, just getting an opportunity to sit down with them and allow you to hear them," Daniels said. "How do you communicate? How do you lead? Are you a leader of men? What is your personality like? Are you creative in the classroom? How do you go about developing players? How do you go about creating and building the culture, so when you do get an opportunity to sit down with them, it is eye-opening for them, just in terms of the true talent that is out there and many men who are deserving of being one of 32?"

McCardell, who played for five different franchises from 1991-2007, said "if every coach in the league could have the opportunity to show the billionaires, the owners, or as they say the shareholders how engaging, how personable you are, it will be a special moment for us as a coaching community and all over the league. It will help them in their search for coaches."

View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on May 25 at the TCO Performance Center.

He said he's also gleaned a considerable amount of knowledge from the way Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.

While the league has made progress since Vikings Ring of Honor member Dennis Green became the second Black head coach in the modern NFL and third overall in league history, there's still ground to be gained in advancing opportunities.

One recent example is Ran Carthon, who was hired as Titans general manager this year after participating in the program last year.

"It's getting there. I always tell guys a lot of times, right now for the minority coaches, you may be taking a lump for the future," McCardell said. "It's kind of like, I'll put it to you this way from a player standpoint, the free agency. Those guys before me helped me become the free agent I wanted to be, so you've got to be willing to sometimes sacrifice for the next generation, and it's always about giving back. It's a process. You've got to get in that process and help the next generation."