Whenever a team hires a new head coach, that person comes in and builds their own coaching staff full of external hires and people they've worked with in the past. The same is true with a general manager and front office. However, there will almost always be at least a few holdovers from the previous regime who are kept around during the transition to new leadership.
The Vikings are about to go through that with both a new GM and head coach. Specifically looking at the coaching staff, you don't need to be a genius to deduce that Klint Kubiak, Adam Zimmer, and many others probably won't be around in 2022. But the Vikings also have a number of assistant coaches with cases to stick around on the next coach's staff.
Perhaps the most prominent among those is wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, who had a strong first season in Minnesota in 2021. The former longtime NFL receiver and Jaguars WRs coach is beloved by his players. Veteran wideout Adam Thielen recently went on Ben Leber's podcast Unrestricted and campaigned for McCardell to be retained.
"I'm kinda hoping coach McCardell stays around, because that's the kind of guy he is," Thielen said amid a conversation about the balance of hard coaching and giving players praise. "He really made me a better football player this year, and for that reason. If you did something really well, he expected that out of you. He would tell you, 'That is the standard, this is what we're looking for right here.' And if you didn't meet that standard, he would let you know and say 'C'mon, what are you doing? We need more out of you.' So I'm hoping he stays around. I'm standing on the table for him, because he made us, as a receiver unit, better football players."
Thielen said the Vikings' receiver group had the best practices he's seen in his nine years in the NFL last season because of McCardell's coaching and leadership. And he isn't just saying that publicly. When he met with the Wilfs after the season and gave them his feedback and input on the direction of the franchise, one of the things he mentioned was that McCardell should stick around.
"I kinda had mentioned that to the owners," Thielen said. "Hey, if you want Justin [Jefferson] to be your franchise guy, which everybody knows that he should be and could be, then you better keep [McCardell] around because the relationship they have is so strong. And for that reason — because he coaches him hard but he also shows him a ton of love. When he's not doing things the right way or he's ever late to a meeting or something like that, he's going to know about it and he's going to be coached hard. Justin's so gifted and he's such a great person, he takes that coaching so well and really has elevated his game."
Thielen isn't the only one. Jefferson shared a post about Thielen's comments to his Instagram story with the caption "Factssss must stay!!" K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette also shared the post to their stories with similar captions.
McCardell's influence was clear this season. Jefferson built on his historic rookie year by finishing second in the NFL with 1,616 receiving yards. He and Thielen each caught ten touchdown passes. Osborn took major strides in his second season with 655 yards and seven touchdowns, while Smith-Marsette came on strong late in the year with a pair of touchdowns and his first career 100-yard game.
Jefferson is the most important player on the Vikings' roster, so keeping him happy is probably a good idea.
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