Rick Spielman sat comfortably in his Winter Park office Friday, exuding an eagerness that everyone within the Vikings organization has grown familiar with. Ten days into his new role as general manager, Spielman has been working tirelessly to transform the Vikings' miserable recent past into an optimistic vision for the future.
The win-loss record from the past two seasons -- 9-23 --is a sobering reminder of just how far the Vikings have fallen into the NFL valley. And now the pressure has built inside Spielman's office with his role expanded and his voice now holding the most authority when it comes to what the Vikings will do with their roster.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be the final decision-maker," Spielman said. "I know I'm going to be judged on the decisions made going forward. But again, I cannot tell you how excited I am to have this opportunity to say with authority, 'This is what I think is best for this organization and this is what we're going to do.' I love that, the pressure part of it."
At present, an equal amount of pressure sits on coach Leslie Frazier's shoulders. There's still that little matter of the Vikings defensive coordinator position, a post still technically occupied by Fred Pagac. But only, it seems, until the team can land a viable replacement.
Raheem Morris and Mel Tucker have interviewed for the position in the past eight days. But both later accepted other coaching opportunities -- with Washington and Jacksonville, respectively.
Current Vikings linebackers coach Mike Singletary, meanwhile, might also draw serious consideration to become the new defensive coordinator.
Yet while Spielman has continued to provide Frazier his input, he is keeping those thoughts in house for now, saying only that he has been staying at Winter Park until just before midnight most nights and using his network of contacts to research candidates as best he can.
"I'm a part of the interview process," Spielman said, "just like we are with the players. I give Leslie my opinions, the strengths and the weaknesses of guys we bring through here. I offer my opinion on how that guy might fit and then let Leslie make the decisions off that."
Only, no final decision has yet been made.
A week from now, the Vikings coaching staff will fly to Mobile, Ala., where they will spend a week coaching the North squad in this year's Senior Bowl. That's a golden opportunity for the Vikings to do some hands-on research on a large pool of draft prospects. And certainly the team would love to have its 2012 coaching staff in place to take full advantage of that trip. But that doesn't mean the Vikings are setting a deadline for having their defensive coordinator position settled.
"You have to make sure it's right," Spielman said. "You don't want to force something that's not there. That's where you can sometimes make a big mistake. Just like with personnel, you don't want to force something that you don't have a good gut feeling about just to have a guy in here to say that spot is filled."
In other words: Stay tuned. But don't be misled into thinking Frazier is working under a hard and fast cutoff date to finalize his coaching staff.
As for the advantages the Vikings will have at the upcoming Senior Bowl, Spielman believes the team has a golden opportunity to make strides in its draft planning.
"Our coaches get to coach those players for a week," he said. "They'll get to see them interact with their teammates, what type of people they are. They'll get to interact with the players in the meeting rooms and see, 'Is this guy going to be able to learn or not learn?' They're going to see their competitiveness. And if we don't know those players by the time we get out of that week then we didn't do our jobs."