Justin Jefferson Personally Requested Specific Coaching Move After Mike Zimmer Firing

Justin Jefferson, Keenan McCardell
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Jefferson was just 23 when the Minnesota Vikings fired his head coach, Mike Zimmer. Jefferson had also been coming off just his second season in the NFL. Typically, players heading into their third seasons don’t have a lot of ‘pull’ within the organization, but if there’s one thing that his peers have quickly learned, is that Jefferson isn’t your average athlete.

No, Jefferson goes above and beyond the norm. He’s the best wide receiver in the NFL, and a case could be made that he’s held this title since his rookie season. Again, that’s not normal.

Yet, the All-Pro receiver’s otherworldly talent has been apparent since he arrived, and once the Vikings decided to move on from Coach Zimmer, they knew they wanted to find someone who could maximize their new franchise player’s skillset.

Little did we know how well Kevin O’Connell would align with the Vikings’ vision, but Jefferson actually had a big hand in putting together another aspect of the coaching staff.

Justin Jefferson pounded the table for Keenan McCardell’s return

Keenan McCardell, Justin Jefferson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

According to The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, Justin Jefferson personally pleaded with the front office not to move on from his wide receivers coach, Keenan McCardell, when the Minnesota Vikings front office cleaned house in 2022.

“He entered the NFL wanting a coach who would match his passion to be the best. When he found one in McCardell, he went out of his way to make sure McCardell didn’t leave. Literally. Jefferson directly asked general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell to keep McCardell on staff after the team fired Mike Zimmer.”

Alec Lewis on Justin Jefferson’s admiration for Vikings WR coach Keenan McCardell

Thankfully, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell listened to their best player, and McCardell was retained for another season. McCardell has since been mentioned as a potential future NFL offensive coordinator, and his work with Vikings receivers is likely a big reason why.

Many, well, most coaches were either fired or allowed to search for a new job after Zimmer’s firing. But not McCardell. Jefferson knew what the Vikings had, and he wanted to make sure the new decision-makers in town recognized the value their wide receiver coach brought to the table.

McCardell has not only helped Jefferson reach his full potential, but now he’s helping others, such as Jordan Addison, do the same.

It’s obvious the Vikings think highly of their receiver coach, and they’ve provided him with several pet projects to develop over the years, whether it’s Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Reagor, or N’Keal Harry. Osborn and Reagor have both signed with the New England Patriots, and we’d guess if they had a chance, they’d probably hire McCardell too.

It’s worth noting that the Patriots did actually interview McCardell for their then-vacant WR position back in 2023. If the Vikings get their way, they’ll continue pairing Jefferson with his favorite receiver coach for as long as they can, but chances are, another team will try learning his secrets in the near future.

Related: Justin Jefferson is the Key to J.J. McCarthy’s Confidence and He Knows It

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