Vikings receivers went to bat for position coach Keenan McCardell this offseason

After the Vikings hired coach Kevin O’Connell this offseason, McCardell was among the only position coaches retained.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell talks with Justin Jefferson during a practice in Eagan, Minnesota.
Courtesy / Minnesota Vikings
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EAGAN, Minn. -- With so many changes this offseason, Keenan McCardell didn’t know what to think.

On Jan. 10, the Minnesota Vikings fired coach Mike Zimmer after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. On Feb. 16, the Vikings hired coach Kevin O’Connell in a move that signaled a new direction for the franchise.

Meanwhile, the 52-year-old McCardell was left to wonder about his future. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after the Vikings introduced O’Connell that McCardell found out he would be staying in the Twin Cities.

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“We had a great opportunity to get together and talk about what he wanted from the position,” said McCardell, the Vikings’ receivers coach last season. “He believed in me. He had a lot of friends of mine that called him and said I was a really good coach.”

As if that wasn’t confirmation enough for O’Connell, receivers like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, among others, went to bat for McCardell this offseason. They liked his coaching style and wanted him to stick around.


“He’s an awesome coach, and I really love him because he played the position and has been in our shoes,” Osborn said. “He keeps it real with all of us. He’s easy to talk to about anything. We’re really excited to have him back.”

The fact that his players vouched for him meant a lot to McCardell.

“It shows what kind of (receivers) room we have,” he said. “We take care of each other. We look out for each other. We make sure that it’s a family in there. That’s how we feel.”

That said, McCardell said he hopes his resume speaks for itself. He spent 16 seasons as a receiver in the NFL, emerging as a star with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Keenan McCardell

No doubt his experience as a player has helped McCardell as a coach. He can relay information authoritatively day in and day out, which has been extremely helpful in teaching a new scheme that puts a lot of stress on the receivers.

“We put a lot on those guys,” offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. “We’re not going to just spell it out and have the longest play calls known to man. Everything is coded. Everything has the ability to get up to the line of scrimmage and go fast. Ultimately, that’s what we want so we can put pressure on the defense when we choose to. I think Keenan McCardell has done a phenomenal job. I couldn’t be more pleased with him and the job he’s done with those guys getting him up to speed.”

Asked about the new scheme, McCardell said it excites him because it puts the onus on his players to step up.

“We have to put the ownership on us to make the passing game work,” McCardell said. “It’s like we are in control. We’ve got to hear it, see it, run the routes and make the plays.”



Offensive linemen Austin Schlottmann and Vederian Lowe weren’t spotted at TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Tuesday afternoon as the Vikings opened up mandatory minicamp. Meanwhile, Osborn missed practice with an undisclosed injury, and fellow receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette was on the sidelines wearing a walking boot.


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