Hiring from within, Vikings promote Spielman to general manager

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2012 - 6:52 AM

After years of making collaborative decisions, the Vikings promoted Rick Spielman to be general manager.

When the move became official Tuesday morning, with Rick Spielman promoted and rubber-stamped as the Vikings' new general manager, his emotions quickly bubbled to the surface.

During a staff meeting inside team headquarters, Spielman expressed confidence that the organization could quickly claw out from under the rubble of 2011. Yet as Spielman conveyed his vision, he also had to stop himself from choking up, still seeming somewhat rattled and accepting significant responsibility for the 3-13 mess of a season that just ended.

That's what gave Tuesday's developments at Winter Park such bite.

The Vikings promised changes after free-falling to the bottom of the NFL and this was the first domino to fall -- upwards.

After five seasons as the team's vice president of player personnel, Spielman now holds a more prestigious position and heightened accountability.

With that comes pinpoint responsibility on all football-related personnel decisions and, yes, a tidal wave of added pressure.

"That's what you want," Spielman said. "When you're in professional sports, whether you're a player, whether you're a coach, I thrive off that and I really enjoy the pressure part of it."

In principle, team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf hope Tuesday's move will leave Spielman as the head architect in the rebuilding process, allowing him final authority when it comes to assembling the roster.

Said Spielman: "Our ownership, our head coach, our coaching staff, all the people involved in this decision process will get a voice to say what they think. The difference will be when we make our personnel decisions and when we go forward, I will have the final authority on what that decision is going to be."

Still, even with Spielman's advancement, several long-term questions loom as to just how much impact the hierarchy change will have.

After all, the Wilfs still will hold executive power when it comes to firing and hiring the head coach. And Leslie Frazier, meanwhile, still assumes total control over the makeup of his coaching staff.

There is also the question as to just how much promise Spielman brings to the position.

With the Vikings, he has been responsible for hitting several big home runs -- most notably drafting running back Adrian Peterson in 2007, receiver Percy Harvin in 2009 and helping to engineer the draft week trade in 2008 that secured defensive end Jared Allen.

On the flip side, Spielman's run as GM of the Dolphins -- from January 2004 to June '05 -- doesn't exactly promise an encouraging turnaround as he tackles that job again with the Vikings.

Miami went 4-12 in 2004, and Spielman saw several of his high-profile trades go haywire. Most notably, in March of '04, he surrendered a second-round draft pick to acquire quarterback A.J. Feeley, who was then an Eagles third-stringer and never materialized as a reliable starter. Spielman also traded away a fourth-round pick to move up one slot in the first round in 2004 to select offensive tackle Vernon Carey.

In 2005, Spielman crossed wires with new Dolphins coach Nick Saban and ultimately resigned.

"The only way to me that you get better is by experiencing some of the setbacks," Spielman said Tuesday. "When you experience some of the setbacks, you really analyze why it was like that, or what did you do, or what would you do differently?"

In this for the long haul

On Tuesday, the Wilfs willingly addressed why this move became necessary, hoping to emulate the power structure most successful NFL teams use.

The Wilfs wouldn't elaborate on how much -- if at all -- they considered outside candidates for this new GM position. But they did express unwavering confidence in Spielman's talent evaluation skills and obvious passion.

Tuesday's move also sent a message that short-term roster fixes no longer will be accepted if they jeopardize the chances of sustaining success.

After all, Brad Childress' reign in the Twin Cities came to an abrupt end 14 months ago in part because of his stubborn insistence to control personnel matters. Frazier won't be allowed to make similar mistakes.

"The general manager's role allows the franchise to look at goals in a more longer-term vision," Zygi Wilf said. "Because they realize that the long term puts the franchise on solid footing. I think that's the major aspect of having this structure is for the franchise to really give long-term stability to this organization."

Spielman now serves as the fulcrum, landing a position of great power and accountability. That's what triggered the emotions Tuesday.

"It's excitement," Spielman said. "But it's also the disappointment from the season we had. I don't think anyone in this organization is satisfied with how we ended up this season. You can't be. But we have to focus on how we're going to move forward."

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