Jim Souhan: Vikings lost a lot when Gilliam was nudged out

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 16, 2007 - 6:32 PM

After 36 years, the talent evaluator received a low-ball offer and left. He'll be missed.

If you wrote about the Vikings in the early '90s, reporting consisted of strolling down the executive hallway every day, looking for insights in every doorway.

Looking for debate -- and secondhand smoke? You ducked into Mike Lynn's office. You wanted humor? You found Jerry Burns and promised not to ask about quarterback controversies.

If you wanted perspective, you looked up one of the wise men.

Jerry Reichow, the assistant general manager of national scouting, was one of the original Vikings. A native of Decorah, Iowa, he was a proud product of the old NFL -- a tough, soft-spoken, honest man who fondly told stories about his old teammates.

Paul Wiggin, a former head coach in college and the pros, coached the Vikings' renowned defensive lines and wrote books about the game.

The quietest of the wise men was Frank Gilliam, who held the title of director of player personnel.

It's hard to imagine in this age of paranoia, subterfuge and self-promotion, but these men helped hold the Vikings together with their common sense and uncommon knowledge, without ever seeking or gaining the caché of celebrity.

Reichow is a Vikings consultant working the Southwest. Wiggin recently accepted a reduced role as a consultant, and Gilliam just parted ways with the Vikings after receiving a low-ball offer.

With the wise men gone or marginalized, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman is bringing his support staff from Miami to Minnesota, to remake that new-millenium dynasty the Dolphins have built.

That is no longer Gilliam's concern.

"I'm a free agent," he said from his Florida home.

Gilliam is 73. Is he bitter, having been pushed out the door by a regime that has yet to prove itself competent at any aspect of running a football team?

"Not bitter," Gilliam said. "I can't say I'm all that disappointed. I thought we could come up with something that we both could live with. But it didn't happen, and I had some good moments up there in my 36 years with that team.

"People do what they've got to do. We don't always agree on things, and you certainly ... well, what I thought was my value to the Vikings and what they thought was not on the same page. That happens."

Gilliam helped build generations of talented Vikings teams, starting in 1970 as the team's scouting director.

Even after Lynn traded away a bushel of high draft picks for Herschel Walker, Reichow and Gilliam helped build the team that made it to the 1998 NFC title game.

Newspaper people certainly understand that any company can judge any employee expendable. That doesn't make it right, or smart, to jettison wisdom.

Just last spring, Gilliam helped identify Tarvaris Jackson as a prospect. Through the years, he and Reichow excelled at discovering late-round steals such as Brad Johnson, Terry Allen and Scott Studwell in the ninth round, and Robert Griffith and John Randle as college free agents.

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