Rick Spielman

Latest Candidates, Priorities In Vikings’ Coach, GM Searches

The Vikings are one of eight teams in search of a new head coach, and one of three (soon to be four, counting the Steelers) in need of a new general manager. New details have emerged regarding the worsening culture in the organization, and the emphasis being placed on better communication in the process to replace Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman. As the search comes into better focus, the order in which hires will be made has been confirmed, and another name has been linked to the head coaching vacancy. 

According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, one of the main reasons Zimmer and Spielman were let go was to allow for a “culture shift”. She notes that there seemed to be a growing disconnect between players and the coaching staff, and that working towards mending that relationship will be key in trying to get the team back into the postseason. One damning comment came from veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks, who said “I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go”.

Cronin notes that an internal search committee has been formed to select the new general manager. Made up of members from a diverse range of backgrounds and skillsets – one of which is “the people and culture department, which includes diversity and inclusion” – they will choose the new GM, who in turn “will have input in the head coach [selection]” according to a tweet from the writer. Owner Mark Wilf has emphasized multiple times the need for strong leaders and communicators to lead the franchise going forward.

Part of the emphasis being placed so much on culture and communication stems from the apparent growth in tensions within the team as Zimmer’s tenure wound down. It had become “clear that for some, there was a need for a new voice”, something that many in the organization feel will be a positive step for the team. It has become known that “some coaches felt internally that the offensive staff was at times pitted against the defensive staff”, something which may have contributed to the high amount of turnover of offensive coordinators in Minnesota during Zimmer’s tenure.

Meanwhile, Cronin’s ESPN colleague Jeremy Fowler tweets that the Vikings have done research on Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glen, and that he is therefore a name to keep an eye on if the team’s list of candidates grows in the coming days. Regardless of who the new HC and GM will be, it is clear they will be charged with making more than just schematic or personnel changes if they are to bring the franchise back to being a Super Bowl contender.

 

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Vikings Request Interview With Bucs’ John Spytek

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, in their search to make their first general manager outside hire in over a decade, the Vikings have requested an interview with Buccaneers’ executive John Spytek (Twitter). Spytek is the current vice president of player personnel in Tampa Bay.

A Midwest-native, Spytek got his start as an operations intern for the Lions in 2004. He became a player personnel intern for the Eagles in 2005, taking only a year to earn a full-time college scouting assistant position. From Philadelphia, he moved to Cleveland to become their director of college scouting. After three seasons in the Browns’ organization, he spent about three more years in Denver before taking a position in the Buccaneers’ front office. He’s currently in his sixth season with Tampa Bay and his 18th in the NFL.

The connection to Minnesota is interesting due to Spytek’s connection to the Kubiak family from his time in Denver. Be sure to track the Vikings’ interest in Spytek and other candidates to replace Rick Spielman here.

Vikings Fire GM Rick Spielman, HC Mike Zimmer

The clearing-out of the regime in Minnesota has begun, as the Vikings have fired General Manager Rick Spielman, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). Pelissero also reports that the team has let go of Head Coach Mike Zimmer as well (Twitter link). 

It was widely expected that Sunday’s game against the Bears would be Zimmer’s last with the Vikings. However, there was a belief that Spielman could stay on either as GM, or in some other capacity, and play a role in the selection process for a new HC. Instead, the 59-year old is out after 16 seasons working with in team’s front office, including the last 10 as GM.

Zimmer, 65, had recently expressed an overall sentiment of pride regarding his tenure with the Vikings. Knowing the writing was as the wall with team set to have a losing record for the second straight year, Zimmer said, “regardless of anything that goes on after the season, I can stand proud”. Zimmer ranks third in franchise history with 71 wins, but the team has a total of one postseason victory in the past four seasons.

The team Tweeted out a statement from its ownership group which says in part, “we appreciate Rick and Mike’s commitment to the team’s on-field success, their passion for making a positive impact in our community and their dedication to players, coaches and staff. While these decisions are not easy, we believe it is time for new leadership to elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships. We wish both Rick and Mike and their families only the best”.

This news, along with the firing of Matt Nagy in Chicago and Brian Flores in Miami, brings the total number of coaching vacancies in the league to six (Vikings, Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars and Raiders) and opens up one of two GM openings, the other being in Chicago after Ryan Pace was let go on Monday as well.

 

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Vikings Expected To Fire Mike Zimmer, Retain GM Rick Spielman

On thin ice for much of this season, Mike Zimmer is not expected to receive a ninth year as Vikings head coach. Minnesota is expected to move on from its longtime HC after Week 18, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports.

This situation was headed toward this conclusion for a bit now, with the Vikings’ past two losses likely sealing the defensive-minded coach’s fate. Ownership nearly canned Zimmer after the Vikes’ run to the divisional round in 2019, so it was going to be tough for the 65-year-old HC to withstand back-to-back losing seasons.

While the Vikings have made the playoffs three times under Zimmer, his abrasive style has worn on the team, La Canfora adds. The team’s two Kirk Cousins contracts have not produced the desired results, with the high-priced quarterback set to finish 1-for-4 in playoff berths under Zimmer. The Vikings advanced to the postseason in 2015 with Teddy Bridgewater at the controls and reached the 2017 NFC championship game with Case Keenum. Zimmer’s defenses were in better shape during those seasons; injuries limited the Vikings’ defensive capabilities over the past two years.

A longtime defensive coordinator, Zimmer had the Vikings perched as a top-10 scoring defense from 2015-19. Over the past two seasons, however, the team has fallen off that pace. Going into Week 18, Minnesota ranks 25th in points allowed and 31st in total defense. The 7-9 squad has been without Danielle Hunter for most of this season and lost Everson Griffen in November. Hunter missed all of last season as well. Zimmer would likely be a strong DC candidate elsewhere if/once the Vikings pull the trigger on firing him.

GM Rick Spielman‘s status is less certain, but he should be expected to return. Spielman has been with the Vikings since 2006, lasting through the Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier and Zimmer tenures. Although the Vikings could start fresh with a new GM, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Spielman is expected to remain with the team — be it in his current role or in another executive position. La Canfora also hears Spielman is not viewed as a chopping-block candidate. Spielman, 59, could be in position to select the next Vikings GM, in a scenario similar to how the Broncos transitioned from John Elway in that post last year.

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Vikings Tried To Trade Into Second Round

The Vikings entered last night and ended last night with four third-round picks, but it sounds like the front office tried to consolidate those selections and move into the second round. General manager Rick Spielman told reporters that he tried to trade into the second round but the price proved to be too expensive (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter).

The Vikings didn’t own a second-round pick thanks to last year’s Yannick Ngakoue trade. They managed to somewhat recoup that investment when they shipped the veteran to the Ravens for a third-round pick. Spielman then added another pair of third-rounders from the Jets when Minny moved back from No. 14 to No. 23.

The team ultimately used each of those third-round picks last night (including their own):

The Vikings will have plenty of opportunities to move around the board on Saturday. The team has six selections between the fourth and sixth rounds, including three selections in the fourth round.

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Vikings Tried To Trade Up Twice In First Round

Vikings GM Rick Spielman went into the first round of last night’s draft ready to wheel and deal. As Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports, the Vikings, who originally held the No. 14 overall pick, called the Giants about moving up to No. 11 (Twitter link). But the QB-needy Bears were willing to give New York a massive haul to trade up from No. 20 to No. 11, a swap that included a 2022 first-rounder.

Obviously, Spielman wasn’t about to part with that kind of capital to move up three spots. While we don’t know exactly who he wanted to move up for, it seems likely that the target was Northwestern LT Rashawn Slater, who went to the Chargers at No. 13, one pick before Minnesota. With Slater gone, the Vikes then engineered a trade down, acquiring the No. 23 pick and two third-round choices from the Jets to allow Gang Green to move up to No. 14 (the Vikings also sent a fourth-round selection to the Jets).

With that No. 23 pick, Spielman got a big-time LT prospect in Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, but he had to sweat it out. He worried that Darrisaw, like Slater, would be snapped up before the Vikings were back on the clock, so he thought about trading back up.

“Once we got down to about four or five picks, when we went down to 23, we did try to go back up because we wanted to try to make sure that we got Christian,” Spielman said (via Craig Peters of the team’s official website). “We were unable to [move up]. Fortunately, we did not have to. We were able to keep our extra picks that we gained and still got the player that we coveted. So, it worked out very well for us.”

Darrisaw, whose natural athleticism and talent give him a high floor, is effective both in pass- and run-blocking. Scouting reports suggest that he will have to work on finishing his blocks, but the ability and the technique is already professional-grade. He should be an immediate starter at left tackle, a job that belonged to Riley Reiff for the past four seasons.

Spielman said this morning that the “sweet spot” of this year’s draft is in the third and fourth rounds (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). That’s good news for him, as the Vikings now have four third-rounders and three fourth-rounders to work with. That will give them some ammunition to continue moving around the board, and Spielman also suggested that he could even look to pick up more picks in the 2022 draft (Twitter link via Tomasson). Minnesota is already scheduled to have 11 selections next year.

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Vikings Extend GM Rick Spielman

Vikings GM Rick Spielman has a new deal to match head coach Mike Zimmer. On Monday, the Vikings officially announced a brand new deal for their top football exec to take him through the 2023 season. 

Rick has been outstanding in his role as Vikings general manager,” Vikings owner Mark Wilf said in a statement. “We are excited and honored to have him continue to lead our efforts to build a championship roster and first-class organization. With Rick’s and Coach Zimmer’s leadership in place, we are in a great position to continue to compete for a Super Bowl.”

Spielman has been with the Vikings since 2006 and has served as their GM since 2012. Since his big promotion, the Vikings have made the playoffs four times including an appearance in the NFC Championship Game (2017). And, with Zimmer as his head coach, the club has posted a record of 57-38-1.

Spielman was set to enter his walk year. Now, he has some extra security heading into his 15th season with the organization.

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Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Vikings Likely To Cut Xavier Rhodes; Latest On Everson Griffen

Earlier today, we discussed a possible extension for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, an extension that would give Minnesota some much-needed cap space. In addition to a potential new deal for Cousins, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune notes that other priorities for the Vikings this offseason include extensions for head coach Mike Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman, and running back Dalvin Cook, all of whom are only under contract through 2020. The team will also need to find a new OC, as the Browns just hired Kevin Stefanski to be their next head coach.

The Vikings may also be looking at some significant turnover on the defensive side of the ball. As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press observes, four of the team’s six defensive starters with Pro Bowls on their resumes — DE Everson Griffen, DT Linval Joseph, S Harrison Smith, and CB Xavier Rhodes — are on the wrong side of 30, or will be next season (Twitter link).

Per Tomasson, Minnesota is likely to release Rhodes. That does not come as much of a surprise, as Rhodes’ play has declined dramatically since he signed a lucrative extension in July 2017, and the team could net a $8.1MM cap savings by cutting him.

Tomasson also suggests that Griffen may not be back with the team in 2020. Pursuant to the terms of a reworked deal that Griffen and the Vikings agreed to last March, Griffen is technically under contract through 2022. But because he played at least 56% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2019 and recorded at least six sacks — he actually played over 77% of defensive snaps while posting eight sacks — he has the ability to void the 2020-22 seasons and hit free agency. Or, even if he does not choose to do so, the Vikings could release him and save about $13MM of cap space.

In any event, it figures to be a busy offseason for Minnesota, a talented team that has just not been able to get over the hump.

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Vikings To Stick With Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman

The Vikings won’t be on the hunt for a new head coach or a GM. On Friday, Vikings owner Mark Wilf backed Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman in a press release and ensured their status for 2020: 

We value Mike and Rick’s leadership and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond.”

The Vikings finished the year 10-6, good enough for a Wild Card spot in the NFC. They enter this weekend’s game against the Saints as underdogs – particularly with a thinned-out secondary to guard Michael Thomas & Co. – but Zimmer and Spielman will return, regardless of the outcome.

It’s worth noting that the contracts for Zimmer and Spielman will expire after the 2020 season. An extension would truly solidify their standing in Minnesota. Otherwise, they’ll be lame ducks heading into next year.

Zimmer, 63, has led the Vikings to three playoff appearances and two divisional crowns over five seasons. In 2017, the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game where they were stopped by the Eagles. Last year, the Vikings fell short of expectations with a 8-7-1 finish, and they waffled at times in 2019, but they still believe Zimmer is the best man for the job.

Spielman, 57, spent six years as the team’s vice president of player personnel before being promoted to GM in 2012.

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