Skip to main content

Kevin O'Connell, Mike Zimmer and One Big Addition and Loss for Each NFC North Team

Our NFC North publishers choose the big offseason addition and loss for the team they cover.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Every team in the NFL experiences change every offseason, it's just a question of how dramatic the change is. 

For some teams, it might just be a few minor roster tweaks and a new assistant coach. For others, it could be a major overhaul of leadership and a blockbuster roster move.

This offseason in the NFC North leaned way towards the dramatic side of things. The Vikings and Bears both replaced their general managers and head coaches. Superstar players like Davante Adams and Khalil Mack left the division. And while the Lions had the most normal offseason, they added several impact players as they continue to try to climb out of the division cellar.

This summer, Fan Nation's four NFC North publishers — myself, Packer Central's Bill Huber, All Lions' John Maakaron, and Bear Digest's Gene Chamberlain — will be running a 12-part roundtable series breaking down the state of the NFC North heading into the 2022 season. Part one, which you can find here, was on the offensive and defensive MVPs for each team.

Part two had each publisher choose the biggest offseason addition and loss for the team they cover. Let's get to it.

Minnesota Vikings

Big offseason addition: Kevin O'Connell

There are so many to choose from here, from a new GM and coaching staff to players like Za'Darius Smith and Lewis Cine. Ultimately, the choice has to be O'Connell. The Vikings fired Mike Zimmer in January after eight mostly successful seasons and replaced him with O'Connell, who is coming off a Super Bowl win as Sean McVay's right-hand man and offensive coordinator. He's now the second-youngest head coach in the NFL (only McVay is younger) and will be calling plays for the first time. There are a lot of unknowns that come with that.

The Vikings kept the roster mostly the same this offseason, indicating that they believe Zimmer was the problem in recent years. They are all in on O'Connell as a leader, an offensive guru, and a key piece of the new collaborative culture they're trying to establish. Because the roster is built to win now, there's no grace period for O'Connell. He needs to make the playoffs in year 1.

Big offseason loss: Mike Zimmer


Wait, what? How can I pick the incoming head coach as the big addition and the outgoing coach as the big loss? For starters, the Vikings didn't lose any key players this offseason, as they probably upgraded by replacing Anthony Barr (with Jordan Hicks), Michael Pierce (with Harrison Phillips), and Xavier Woods (with rookie Lewis Cine).

Secondly, this feels a bit like a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation. Yes, Zimmer the head coach needed to go, but the Vikings might end up missing Zimmer the defensive wizard. The Vikings were elite defensively from 2015-19, and even when the personnel was no longer great over the past two years, they were still incredible on third downs and in the red zone thanks to Zimmer's brilliance as a schemer and play caller. New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has big shoes to fill on that side of the ball. — Will Ragatz, Inside the Vikings

Green Bay Packers

Big offseason addition: Four wide receivers

No one person can replace an All-Pro like Davante Adams. Over the past six seasons, Adams led all NFL receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. With several years of dominating play, Adams had put himself on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Rather than putting all his eggs in one basket, general manager Brian Gutekunst responded by signing veteran Sammy Watkins and drafting Christian Watson (second round), Romeo Doubs (fourth round) and Samori Toure (seventh round). That’s four tries in hopes of finding the team’s next star receiver.

The Packers packaged their two second-round picks in a trade with Minnesota to move up to No. 34 to get Watson, the former North Dakota State star with a ridiculous combination of size and speed. One of the dumb national narratives is how the Packers haven’t given Aaron Rodgers a first-round receiver. That’s true, but the Packers have made a killing with second-round receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Adams. The Packers hope – no, the Packers need – Watson to be the next in line.


Big offseason loss: Nathaniel Hackett

Scroll to Continue

Read More

The easy (and correct) answer for the biggest loss is Adams. But that’s too obvious. So, let’s deviate a bit and go with Nathaniel Hackett. The team’s offensive coordinator the past three seasons, he is the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. More than X’s and O’s, Hackett was brimming with creativity, energy and a fun-loving spirit that took the drudgery out of meetings. Hackett turned the red zone into the gold zone because Goldmember of Austin Powers fame loved gold and the Packers loved touchdowns. Weird? Maybe, but it was stuff like that that kept things fresh and fun.

Coach Matt LaFleur filled the void by promoting Adam Stenavich from offensive line coach. Will the offense be as creative with Stenavich? And will Stenavich’s replacement, Luke Butkus, have the same Midas touch on an offensive line? — Bill Huber, Packer Central

Chicago Bears

Big offseason addition: Jaquan Brisker

Brisker, the second-round pick from Penn State, arrived at rookie camp making plays on the ball and didn't stop until OTAs and mandatory minicamp ended. Brisker is a player capable of takeaways and he'll be playing in a role and scheme designed to create them.

Even if Brisker is merely adequate as a rookie, he provides a dynamic the Bears haven't had since Adrian Amos left in free agency — a young, explosive safety who actually enjoys coming down near the line to deliver punishment with speed and instincts to go back in coverage. This finally returns Eddie Jackson to a role he had in 2018 when he made six interceptions. Jackson will be a center fielder.

Big offseason loss: Khalil Mack

Gauging the loss of Mack will be difficult because the scheme changed to a 4-3 from a 3-4. After his season ended due to injury in the seventh game, Robert Quinn went on to a franchise-record 18 1/2 sacks and Trevis Gipson had seven sacks, anyway, so it would appear they got beyond the loss of a sack producer. But Mack's absence could be felt last year in lack of consistency with the pass rush and in how they lost his run-stopping ability. They finished 23rd against the run, their worst ranking since 2016. Even though their 49 sacks were fourth most in the NFL, they ranked 23rd (23.1%) at pressuring the passer, according to NFL stat partner Sportradar.

Mack makes so many run stops off the back side that teams almost need to assign an extra blocker there. This totally defeats the purpose of their blocking scheme. The Bears also lack Mack's leadership, and although he is normally a rather laid-back guy off the field, he plays with intensity. This group needs to come up with more players who step up at big moments. — Gene Chamberlain, Bear Digest


Detroit Lions

Big offseason addition: D.J. Chark

The Lions' offense struggled drastically to begin the year in 2021. Quarterback Jared Goff was new to town and simply did not have enough offensive firepower to get anything done. Breshad Perriman flamed out before the season ever began. Tyrell Williams went down early in the season opener with a head injury and never returned to the lineup.

So, the free agents who were expected to come in and help did absolutely nothing in Detroit. The addition of Chark in free agency on a prove-it deal gives Detroit another big target for Goff to throw to. After missing a significant portion of 2021 dealing with an ankle injury, Chark is poised to return and contribute almost immediately. Goff certainly has more weapons to target this season, which should improve his confidence and performance.


Big offseason loss: Jalen Reeves-Maybin

The Lions took a lot of heat from supporters for signing many of their own free agents after only winning three games last season. General manager Brad Holmes is seeking a certain type of player and the majority of contracts that have been handed out have been for only one season.

One of the players who departed was Reeves-Maybin, who parlayed his success in Detroit into a new two-year contract with $7.5 million with the Houston Texans. The coaching staff often spoke positively of him during Reeves-Maybin's tenure and he made plays at the linebacker position. It was tough to lose a solid special teams contributor, but Detroit has young linebackers waiting to take the next step forward in their career, including Derrick Barnes and rookie Malcolm Rodriguez. — John Maakaron, All Lions

Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.