New Vikings QBs coach following in O’Connell’s footsteps

INDIANAPOLIS — New Vikings quarterbacks coach Josh McCown is at the NFL Scouting Combine and participating during informal interviews with players.

McCown, the former 19-year NFL quarterback hired by the Vikings on Tuesday, is following in the footsteps of head coach Kevin O'Connell, who is also a former NFL quarterback who began his coaching career as a Browns quarterbacks coach in 2015.

One of the Browns quarterbacks at that time was McCown, whom O'Connell expects to bring a "holistic" approach to a Vikings quarterbacks room that could feature Kirk Cousins, a rookie or both. O'Connell said McCown and Grant Udinski, the assistant QBs coach, will now lead the position. Former quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara will shift to a passing game specialist role and report directly to O'Connell.

"I don't think you need to be a QB to coach [quarterbacks]," O'Connell said Wednesday. "But my transition was I got out of playing, got an opportunity to be a quarterback coach and grew through making mistakes and communicating well in some ways and learning how to do things better in other ways. I think that experience for Josh will serve him really well, and it'll make me better as well."

McCown, 44, is in his second season as a NFL quarterbacks coach. Last season, McCown held the same position for the Carolina Panthers and rookie quarterback Bryce Young. McCown may have another rookie to mold. The Vikings are in talks with Kirk Cousins about an extension, but they're also eyeing the top of this year's quarterback draft class.

O'Connell's coaching staff now stands at 27 members, including newly-hired assistant to the head coach Henry Schneider IV. O'Connell said he's setting up a staff that will allow him to "micromanage" less.

"What I'm looking for in Year 3 is to continue to take a step back," O'Connell said, "and allow guys to grow and develop and really put their fingerprints on things where I don't feel like I have to micromanage everything. I think we're set up to do that now."

Vikings expecting to join Browns for joint practices

Browns General Manager Andrew Berry let the cat out of the bag this week that Cleveland plans to host the Vikings for joint practices this summer. Those plans have not been finalized, O'Connell said Wednesday, but they're in the works. Dates and times are to be determined, as well as the preseason schedule.

This is the fourth straight year the Vikings will participate in joint practices, which are gaining in popularity across the league while starters play less in exhibitions.

"The team you do it [against] is as important as anything," O'Connell said. "I think the type of team Cleveland has, Kevin [Stefanski's] leadership, the dialogue we've had about putting it together was really exciting."

"Hopefully it does become final when we get the green light for it," he added.

The Vikings have most recently played host with opponents like the Titans, Cardinals, 49ers and Broncos going to TCO Performance Center for joint practice sessions. Minnesota last traveled for joint practices in 2016 at Cincinnati.

Vikings rank No. 2 in NFLPA's report card

The Vikings slipped in this year's NFLPA report card.

But not by much.

The players union released its second-annual, player-voted report card, in which Vikings players gave the team top marks in many categories. Overall, Minnesota ranked as the No. 2 workplace in the NFL just behind the Miami Dolphins. The Vikings ranked No. 1 last year.

The Vikings led the league in four categories: treatment of families, strength coaches, nutritionist and locker room. They also ranked highly in two new categories offered by the NFLPA: head coach and owner. O'Connell and the Wilf ownership group both ranked second leaguewide.

"It just means the guys are responding to my style of being authentic, being the same guy everyday," O'Connell said. "That gives me the opportunity to continue to push our organization forward."

Vikings players didn't feel as strongly about the training staff, which still ranked ninth. The Vikings' training staff previously ranked first last spring. This offseason, the team fired No. 2 trainer Uriah Myrie. O'Connell didn't hire a replacement, but he said top trainer Tyler Williams and the rest of the staff will take on more responsibilities.

"In the dialogue I have routinely with our players," O'Connell said, "there were some things I felt fell below the lines of the standards we try to set."