Hartman: Vikings GM Spielman stands by belief in draft

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2013 - 9:06 PM
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Vikings general manager Rick Spielman

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the team is in the initial process of evaluating personnel like it did last year, a process that led to the team's drastic improvement from a 3-13 record in 2011 to 10-6 and an NFC wild-card berth this season.

"We'll be open, upfront and honest," Spielman said. "We'll evaluate each guy, evaluate where we're at as an organization and what we need to do to improve from what we did last year. Again, the only reason you're in this business -- and it was great to see the strides that we have made -- but again, until you win that Super Bowl, you have to get better. Then the next year it's a whole new year.

"There will be some new faces here, again. Our coaches did a great job this year of developing and bringing in these young players and how they all contributed. We're going to have another eight and potentially maybe more draft picks, and we have to do as good of a job or a better job with this draft and bringing in players."

One difference facing the Vikings front office is that the team had 19 free agents last year and didn't sign any, while this year it has 10 and at least half of them made a significant impact in the Vikings' improvement this season, such as Erin Henderson, Phil Loadholt, Jamarca Sanford and Jerome Felton.

Another problem facing Spielman is the salary cap, with most of those important free agents looking for big raises, and a player such as defensive end Jared Allen scheduled to make $14 million on the last year of his contract. And if they are to keep Percy Harvin, the Vikings will have to offer him a big contract similar to that of Adrian Peterson's seven-year, $100 million deal.

GM likes Webb

While most experts believe the Vikings need a backup quarterback other than Joe Webb, Spielman won't hold his bad performance in the playoffs at Green Bay against him, insisting he likes Webb in the role.

"Joe has been a very good backup quarterback," Spielman said. "I'm sure, as everybody has seen, that he probably didn't play the way he wanted to play up in Green Bay. But if you look into his history, that's what you have to do, the things he did when he came into the Washington game a year ago, what he did in Detroit the game Christian got hurt, what he did in Philadelphia when we got stuck two years ago.

"Joe has done a very good job for us in that backup situation. But he just didn't probably play as well as he wanted to play, and overall we didn't play as well as we needed to play up in Green Bay that night."

Spielman also likes the future of third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who didn't see any action this season.

"Bethel was a UFL kid, got a big arm, a lot of promise," Spielman said. "Coaches did a great job working with him through training camp. He flashed some of the ability that he has in that last preseason game against Houston and really has made some progress."

But Spielman said the QBs and all the others players will be evaluated, and he reiterated his belief in building a winner through the draft.

"I still believe in how you build a foundation for your football team and keep it competitive year in and year out is developing your draft picks and hitting on draft picks every year," he said. "Those are the guys that you're going to build your core football team with. If you can sprinkle in free agents here or there, you never know ... but for the most part, we're always going to try to build through the draft. Then as our guys eventually come out of their rookie contracts, those are the guys you want to keep because those are the guys, I think, that you know the best."

After one tremendous season as the first Vikings general manager since the days of Mike Lynn, Spielman looks like just the man to keep the team improving.

Caruso not moving

St. Thomas' Glenn Caruso, the Liberty Mutual NCAA Division III Coach of the Year three seasons in a row, said he is happy where he is and not looking for a another job.

"I'd be lying if I said that there weren't people that called to offer other jobs," said Caruso, who guided St. Thomas football to the D-III national championship game, where the Tommies lost to Mount Union 28-10 last month.

"But at this point, this is the right place for myself and this is the right place for my family, without a doubt. ... We've had several [offers]. We've had a couple in the last two years since our profile, the school's profile has gotten better as a football program. But I'm a big believer, when people call on you, and you see the success, it's probably more a function of St. Thomas than it is the coach."

SID'S JOTTINGS

• There was exciting news this week about Twins owner Bill Pohlad, one of the sons of the late Carl Pohlad. Bill has signed on as a director of the film "Love & Mercy," a biographical picture about Beach Boys star Brian Wilson, who incidentally is a relative of Kevin Love. Pohlad hasn't directed a film in more than 20 years, but he has produced such acclaimed films as "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Tree of Life."

• Andy Bischoff, a former Cretin- Derham Hall football coach who spent the past five seasons as a Montreal Alouettes assistant coach under Marc Trestman, has joined Trestman's staff with the Chicago Bears as tight ends coach.

• MLB Commissioner Bud Selig recently awarded the Twin Cities the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (R.B.I.) World Series for the third year in a row. The final again will be at Target Field. The ballpark also will be home to the Big Ten championships May 22-26 and state high school championship games on June 17.

Stadium Journey Magazine recently ranked the best stadium experiences in American sports. Xcel Energy Center ranked fifth while Target Field rated ninth out of 101 listed venues.

The Twins might have a better chance to sign veteran pitcher Joe Saunders now that he will be satisfied with a one- or two-year contract rather than a long-term one, which he was initially looking for.

Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia gives freshman goalie Adam Wilcox a lot of credit for the team's success. "Adam Wilcox has been the guy all season long. He has given us a chance to win every night he has played, and he's a big reason why we have the record that we do," Lucia said.

• Former Gophers offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the same role. He had been with the University of Miami the past two years.

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