Scoggins: Vikings GM Spielman is building a future

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2014 - 7:21 AM

A core of young players could be the foundation for team success for years.

hide

After going all in with Brett Favre, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman believes he is building a foundation for the future with a core of young players.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– On the day of his promotion to Vikings general manager, Rick Spielman stood at a podium and choked back tears, an unscripted reaction to a significant moment in his professional career.

Privately, he had reason to shed tears from pounding his head against a wall after examining the mess on his plate. The Vikings were coming off a 3-13 season in 2011 and had a disjointed, underwhelming roster.

The organization needed to reinvent itself after the Brett Favre experiment. The Vikings viewed that two-year window (2009-10) as their “All In” moment. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback and veteran roster primed to contend for a championship. So they went for it.

Once that window slammed shut, the roster became old, expensive and badly in need of an overhaul.

“I knew after that window closed,” Spielman said last week, “we were not starting over but … we had some very hard decisions.”

Fast forward to now and Vikings fans should feel encouraged by the roster transformation that Spielman has put into practice. The Vikings are being built the right way, a model that could lead to sustained success if — and this should be written in bold capital letters because it looms over everything else — rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can develop into their franchise quarterback.

If the Favre years represented an “All In” approach, this current plan looks more like a “Long Haul” formula, to the extent that anything in today’s NFL can be viewed in a long-term manner.

The Vikings have 17 of what I’ll classify as “core players.” That doesn’t include rookies because they haven’t played a snap in the NFL so it’s premature to put them in that category.

But of those 17 core players, 13 are between the ages of 23 and 28, the ideal range for maximizing a player’s talent. That group includes Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, Matt Kalil, Xavier Rhodes and Blair Walsh. (Adrian Peterson is 29.)

Even the Vikings’ two prized free-agent signings this offseason — Linval Joseph (25) and Captain Munnerlyn (26) — fit that mold.

The NFL’s salary cap creates fluidity in rosters that make retention rates fluctuate sharply some years. The Seattle Seahawks set the template for roster construction last season by winning the Super Bowl with an average age of 26.4 years.

A nucleus of talented players in their mid-20s who are at the end of their first contract or on their second contract serves as an ideal foundation.

“If we can win with these guys when they’re 24, 25 and have these guys under contract, in theory, you’re going to be able to maintain that success,” Spielman said. “It’s not going to be an ‘All In’ one year.”

That process takes time. The roster still has some obvious holes, especially on defense. And Spielman certainly has made mistakes along the way, as well. He whiffed badly on Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman’s signing proved to be a fiasco and he didn’t have a solid Plan B after releasing Antoine Winfield.

But the roster looks more viable now than at any point since Favre retired. The shift in philosophy is illuminated when compared to that 2010 team. The Vikings had 16 starters who were 28 or older that season, including a dozen who were at least 30 years old.

The Vikings likely will start only five players age 30 or older this season. That group includes quarterback Matt Cassel, who still has to win the job in camp.

Spielman took a two-pronged approach in reconfiguring the roster: He wanted to build through the draft while also cutting ties with a group of popular veterans who made an indelible mark on the organization but were on the back end of their career (Winfield, Steve Hutchinson, E.J. Henderson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Ryan Longwell). He also traded disgruntled receiver Percy Harvin.

“When you have to make those business decisions,” Spielman said, “those are maybe the most painful ones to make.”

Spielman hopes to keep his core young by drafting 10 players every year. He has maneuvered smartly to land seven first-round picks in his three drafts as GM.

He also hired a coaching staff that he trusts to develop young talent. That faith is reflected in new contracts given to Griffen and Rudolph. The nearly $40 million in combined guarantees to those two players demonstrates Spielman’s trust that Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner can draw the best out of young players.

That applies especially to Bridgewater, the linch pin to this whole plan. If he fails as a long-term answer, Spielman will be 0-for-2 on picking quarterbacks and probably won’t get a third try.

Spielman has the right blueprint and his young core makes the future look promising. But he knows everything hinges on that million dollar question.

“A franchise quarterback can hide a lot of warts and it can extend your window,” he said. “If you’re getting younger in other areas, if you have that franchise quarterback, he can bridge that gap while those guys learn and still win ballgames.”

 

Chip Scoggins • chip.scoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
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
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close