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Who is Keenan McCardell, and why do the Patriots see him as a potential offensive coordinator?

New England requested to speak to the 53-year-old.

Minnesota Vikings v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have started their search for a new offensive coordinator, and the first external candidate has emerged. According to reports, the Patriots have requested an interview with Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell.

It remains to be seen whether or not he will accept the invite to meet with the team, but the team certainly sees something in him worthy of at least inquiring. What could it be, let’s take a closer look at him to find out.

Who is Keenan McCardell?

Current position: Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach

Age: 53

Playing background: Despite a productive college career at UNLV, McCardell had to wait until the 12th round of the 1991 NFL Draft to hear his name called. Washington originally picked him up, but he never appeared in a game for the team before being cut following his rookie seasons. McCardell was picked up by the Cleveland Browns in 1992, joining forces with then-Browns head coach Bill Belichick.

McCardell spent four years in Cleveland, appearing in 39 total games. He left to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996 and over the next six seasons became a productive player. He finished his career with a two-year stint in Tampa Bay — earning a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl nod along the way — followed by three seasons in San Diego. Eventually, he had an offseason stint in Houston before returning to Washington for one final season.

Given that he entered the league with relatively little fanfare, McCardell built a solid career résumé. In 17 years as an NFL wide receiver, he appeared in a combined 225 regular season and playoff games and caught 938 passes for 11,995 yards and 69 touchdowns. He was named to two Pro Bowls and earned two Super Bowl rings during his rookie season in Washington and his time in Tampa.

Coaching background: McCardell began his coaching career just like his active career: in Washington. He became the team’s wide receivers coach in 2010 but was let go after his second year at the job. Two years later, he found a new home, joining the University of Maryland for a two-year stint.

His work with the Terrapins in 2014 and 2015 — among others he helped develop future Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs — helped open the door for another NFL opportunity; in 2017, McCardell returned to Jacksonville. He coached the Jaguars’ wideout for four seasons, but was not retained after head coach Doug Marrone was fired following the 2020 campaign.

It did not take long for McCardell to find a new home, though. He joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 and has served as their wideouts coach ever since — being retained for the 2022 season even after the club changed head coaches.

As can be seen, his coaching journey is one of many twists and turns. It also is one that saw him get in touch with several different coaching philosophies: McCardell started his career under Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington, and also worked with Nathaniel Hackett, John DeFilippo, Jay Gruden, Klint Kubiak and, eventually, Wes Phillips and Kevin O’Connell.

Why do the Patriots see him as a potential offensive coordinator?

In order to assess this question, we touched base with Christopher Gates of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Daily Norseman. His answers below give some insight into his time with the Vikings, and what he might bring to the Patriots’ offense if hired.

How would you assess the job McCardell did in Minnesota? “I think he’s done a pretty solid job so far with the Vikings’ wide receivers the past two years. Obviously people will look at Justin Jefferson, but I think a better example to look at in this case would be K.J. Osborn. As a rookie in 2020 (before McCardell got to Minnesota), he played exclusively on special teams and was a disaster as a punt returner. He was probably in danger of getting cut, to be honest. Then McCardell got to Minnesota and, over the past two years, Osborn’s caught 110 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s become a valuable receiver for the Vikings and could be poised to take over the No. 2 receiver role here in the near future, and I believe that nearly all of it can be credited to McCardell and the job he’s done in helping him to develop. I think McCardell would be a very significant loss to the Vikings’ coaching staff if he were to move on.”

Do you think he is ready to become an offensive coordinator? “Minnesota is McCardell’s fourth stop as a wide receivers coach (Washington, University of Maryland, Jacksonville) and has been doing it since 2010 with a couple of breaks, so he’s been a positional coach for a while. I think he’s been in enough different places and seen enough different offenses where if he wanted to become an offensive coordinator somewhere he would be able to step into that role. It would pretty much be a matter of whether or not he wants to do the job or not. We’ve already touched on his ability to develop players, but you never know how well that would translate to him taking over a coordinator role. While it wouldn’t be with Minnesota if it happens, in all likelihood, but I’m guessing he’s going to get the opportunity to make the jump somewhere if he wants it. He’s certainly paid his dues, I think.”

What kind of offense do you think he would run in New England? “It’s hard to say, given the evolving nature of offenses across the board in football, both in college and the pros. I’m sure that, like most coaches, any style that McCardell would bring to the table would be a combination of all the offenses he’s been involved in over the years. Since he’s been at it since 2010 there would be a lot of different sources that he could draw from. With Minnesota being his most recent stop, there would probably be quite a bit of Sean McVay influence, similar to what the Vikings started doing this past season under Kevin O’Connell. But I’m not totally sure that I could really pigeonhole the style of offense that he would try to run because he does have those numerous different sources that he can draw from because of the experience he’s had to this point.”