Thursday’s matchup between the Vikings and the Patriots will feature an interesting head coaching matchup.
Minnesota is 8-2 and New England is 6-4 heading into Thanksgiving, but the game is highlighted by a lot more than just the team’s records. Week 12 will feature a matchup between a former Patriots backup quarterback going up against his former head coach.
O’Connell was drafted by New England in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Matt Cassell led the way in the 2008-09 season in place of an injured Tom Brady, and O’Connell’s playing career was short-lived.
Now, the 37-year-old has led the Vikings to the second-best record in the NFC in his first year on the job. Thursday’s matchup is not the first time O’Connell has faced off against the Patriots — he served as Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator the past two seasons and as a position coach for seven seasons.
However, his past relationship with New England will be highlighted during the primetime matchup, and in his Tuesday news conference, the former Patriots backup QB had nothing but respect for Bill Belichick.
“Yeah I’ve mentioned that I was lucky enough to play there,” O’Connell told reporters, per team-provided transcript. “He is one of my coaching influences regardless of the fact that at the time I knew I was going to get into coaching or eventually become a head coach. Those characteristics, those foundational things you learn there even in the short time that I was there, have stuck with me. I still have old notebooks with team meeting notes and things like that that are always great to go back and look through throughout that season, throughout the offseason, training camp. So as I’ve said many times, it’s been a huge part of my football journey to be able to experience being there for that period of time and helped me grow tremendously.
“But as far as coaching against him and his team this week and his coaching staff, you just know what the challenge is going to be. They’re going to play good football, they’ve got really good players and schemes that challenge you in every way, shape or form to try to coach your team up to try to meet that and give them the chance to play a competitive game and get back on track to where we think we are as a football team, even coming off of a performance like that the other day and ultimately what we truly want to become when the final chapters of our season and the story of our season are told.”
O’Connell’s team is coming off an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys at home, and they’ll hope to give fans at U.S. Bank stadium something to cheer for but will have to do so without star left tackle Christian Darrisaw.