Patrick Reusse: Decision shows Spielman sees the error of his ways

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2013 - 4:47 PM

The GM put the interests of the Vikings ahead of his interest in saving face with Christian Ponder.

The idea that the Vikings would be interested in Josh Freeman made sense from a competitive standpoint. Put a long-ball threat at quarterback and our Purple heroes finally would be able to make opponents pay big for all those defenders massed near the line to stop Adrian Peterson.

The notion was tempting, but bringing in Freeman also seemed a longshot for this reason:

General Manager Rick Spielman would have to suspend his ego and basically give up on Christian Ponder, the quarterback that he made a reach to draft at No. 12 overall in the 2011 draft.

As it turns out, anyone embracing that theory was putting too much stock in Spielman’s ego and not enough in his commitment to do whatever was in the best interests of the Vikings — and past decisions be danged.

Last October, Freeman came into the Metrodome with Tampa Bay and joined with running back Doug Martin in lighting up the Vikings 36-17. This was a Vikings team that was 5-2 at the time. It was the worst loss that the Purple took in the 10-6 playoff season.

Anyone in the Dome that night who was asked gladly would have given up a prime draft choice to bring in Freeman as the Vikings quarterback.

Freeman and the Bucs hit the skids soon after that impressive performance. The quarterback, only 25 and in his fifth year, wound up in a feud this season with Greg Schiano, his coach.

You remember Schiano … the college guy who pulled off that clownish move of trying to have defenders maul an opposing quarterback who was kneeling to end a game. We can assume Schiano might have been as rah-rah and juvenile in his dealings with Freeman.

First, Schiano benched Freeman in favor of a rookie, then the Bucs let it leak that they were trying to trade him, and then last week he was released. Eight to 10 teams, presumably run by smarter people than Schiano and the rest of the Bucs braintrust, contacted Freeman’s agent to talk about a new landing spot.

Buffalo could offer a starting spot while rookie E.J. Manuel was recovering from injury. Oakland could have been offering a starting spot, period, because the Raiders are always interested in a quarterback shuffle.

There also was a rumor that Green Bay wanted Freeman to come in as Aaron Rodgers’ backup, and perhaps learn more about quarterbacking than he had ever known.

The team that got it done was the Vikings. That’s right … the Vikings got Freeman for nothing, rather than the second-rounder we all would’ve given up for him last October after that Thursday night in the Metrodome.

As a recruiting ploy, it probably only took two words for the Vikings to land Freeman: Adrian Peterson.

As a reality, it took Spielman to be willing to move off his commitment to Ponder and say to Freeman, “Come in and take the job.”

Monday will be a crazy day at Winter Park. Presumably, Freeman will be arriving, and Matt Cassel will be finding out if his good work in London a week ago makes him the starter, and Ponder will be seeking truth on his future from his employer rather than rhetoric.

I’m guessing there will be some of that — some of that about Ponder having that rib injury, and the Vikings not knowing for sure if he was healthy, and the Vikes not wanting to go into the important post-bye stretch with the possibility of one healthy veteran quarterback.

Even if it sounds like that, the Vikings will have to come clean soon and show us that Josh Freeman is here to play.

It’s a one-year deal for now, but it can turn into much more than that, if Freeman proved to be an effective long-baller to go with Peterson’s marvelous wheels.

All the credit for this goes to Rick Spielman. On this off Sunday for the Vikings, the best interests of his team defeated Spielman’s ego in a blowout.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. •

preusse@startribune.com

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