Scoggins: House Spielman built takes shape

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 8, 2013 - 10:54 AM

In the first year in his new post, the Vikings general manager showed winning and rebuilding can simultaneously be accomplished.

Rick Spielman quietly celebrated the anniversary of his promotion to Vikings general manager this past Thursday.

He became emotional in front of reporters that day last January, his voice cracking as he acknowledged the challenge that awaited him following a 3-13 season. His vision included a major rebuild that required tearing down the roster and reshaping it with an influx of new faces and young talent. A year later, Spielman has formulated the right blueprint to help the Vikings organization achieve long-term health and stability.

The Vikings bucked predictions by advancing to the postseason in a presumed rebuilding campaign. That's a credit to the players and coaching staff who refused to view their own expectations in those terms. But the success also reflects Spielman's belief that his organization can build a solid foundation through the draft without compromising the NFL's win-now mandate. This Vikings team proved that being young and being good are not mutually exclusive.

"I think we're on the right track," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We played so many young guys and mixed in the older guys. If we come back next year and bomb, I think we'll all be disappointed."

Spielman jettisoned a veteran core last offseason and assembled the NFL's eighth-youngest team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. At the time, the moves felt like a necessary cleansing that signaled the Vikings were starting over. And given truth serum, a number of veterans probably would confess to privately questioning where this thing was headed. Nobody in pro sports wants to hear about rebuilding jobs, especially guys on the backside of their career.

But the pieces fit. Not perfectly, of course. This roster is not a finished product. But of the 12 playoff teams, the Vikings featured the second-youngest roster behind Seattle.

"I think Rick had a plan going into this year," left guard Charlie Johnson said. "Whatever he had in mind, it worked. I have trust in them that we're going to keep this thing rolling and that it's something that we can sustain."

The players cleaned out their lockers Monday and scattered into the offseason, but their future looks different than it did following the team's 2009 playoff exit. That was a veteran team that knew it had one more shot at the Super Bowl if Brett Favre returned the next season. That group professed an "all in" mindset as its window began to close.

This situation feels more open-ended. This team has a nucleus of talented youngsters and players in their prime who forged tight chemistry despite their age gap. Their window for success looks wider, even though everyone realizes the NFL is a year-to-year proposition and things can change quickly.

"I think Rick has done a great job with his vision, building a young roster with guys who are hungry and want to work hard and having good veteran leadership," center John Sullivan said. "I definitely think we're a team on the upswing."

The Vikings' average age is 25.98 years old, which is a byproduct of two consecutive successful drafts by Spielman and his scouting department. Half of the team's 20 draft picks the past two years are either starters or key contributors.

Spielman says he never evaluates a draft class until after three years, but it's safe to assign the 2012 rookie class headed by Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh an 'A' letter grade. Their collective contributions solidified weaknesses in all three phases at a level that few could have anticipated, probably even internally.

Now Spielman needs to nail this upcoming draft, too. The Vikings must find a true No. 1 deep threat at wide receiver, two starting linebackers and a defensive tackle. They also need to sign a competent veteran backup quarterback, presumably in free agency. First and foremost though, Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier must solve the riddle that is Percy Harvin and iron out whatever it is that's bothering him.

No matter how much he tweaks or replenishes the roster, Spielman's tenure will be judged largely on Christian Ponder's success and whether he develops into a franchise quarterback. Ponder's play was so all over the map this season that it's impossible to say with any degree of certainty that he's capable of leading this organization to long-term prosperity. However, the Vikings should feel encouraged by his performance in December and the way he pulled himself together as his season started to crumble.

Even with Ponder's inconsistency and a young roster, the Vikings won more games than their previous two seasons combined. They have a clear vision now that's recognizable and understandable. And it makes sense.

A year ago, Spielman promised to build something here. We got to see the framework this season.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: A. Loup 4 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: J. Outman 6
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 2
Atlanta - LP: G. Schlosser 3 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. Valverde 4
Seattle - LP: T. Wilhelmsen 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 3
St. Louis - LP: S. Maness 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 3
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Gomez 2
NY Yankees - WP: P. Claiborne 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: H. Bell 1
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 3
Cincinnati - WP: H. Bailey 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 2
Chicago WSox - WP: E. Johnson 16 FINAL
Texas - LP: R. Ross Jr. 2
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 4
Philadelphia - WP: J. Diekman 10 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 9
San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum 4 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 3
Arizona - LP: J. Collmenter 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: J. Wright 4
Baltimore - LP: B. Matusz 5 FINAL
Boston - WP: E. Mujica 6
Dallas 85 FINAL
San Antonio 90
Charlotte 88 FINAL
Miami 99
Washington 102 FINAL
Chicago 93
Portland 122 FINAL
Houston 120
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Detroit 1 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
San Jose 7
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which quarterback is best in the NFL draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close