Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that Tony Sparano had been hired to be the team’s new offensive line coach.
“He was the head coach at the Miami Dolphins, interim coach of the Oakland Raiders, an offensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys, offensive coordinator with the New York Jets,” Zimmer said. “I have known Tony for a long time.”
Sparano coached Miami from 2008-11 and had a 29-32 record, winning the AFC East in his first season.
He was Jets offensive coordinator in 2012, then was an assistant head coach/offensive line in Oakland (2013-14) and San Francisco’s tight ends coach last season.
Sparano also was interim head coach in Oakland in 2014, going 3-9 in 12 games. He coached with Zimmer in Dallas when they were assistants. Sparano has been an NFL coach since 1999.
Zimmer released former offensive line coach Jeff Davidson on Tuesday.
Vikings nearly moved
It could have been the Vikings moving to Los Angeles instead of the St. Louis Rams if the Legislature had not passed the bill in May of 2012 to approve funding for a new stadium.
It was kept a secret at the time, but early in 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell flew in from New York. In a visit with Gov. Mark Dayton, Goodell made it clear that if the Vikings didn’t get a new stadium, several owners were ready to vote to give the Wilf family permission to move the team if they so desired.
The Vikings’ 30-year lease with the Metrodome expired in 2011, and the Wilfs were unhappy about progress in the Legislature toward building a stadium. Their patience was running out on continuing to play in the Metrodome, a facility they felt was unable to produce the revenue necessary to put a winning team on the field. Previous owner Red McCombs sold the club to the Wilfs in 2005 after giving up on getting a stadium built.
Back then, Rams owner Stan Kroenke — who on Tuesday received permission to move the team to the Los Angeles are — had a lease and couldn’t move the team. Different groups in Los Angeles were putting pressure on the Wilfs to move and to build a stadium there.
Zygi Wilf made a trip to Los Angeles to check out the situation, but the family’s first hope was to keep the team here. However, the Wilfs own vast amounts of real estate in L.A., and that was a lure for them to move the team there.
Goodell, who was in town for the Vikings-Seahawks playoff game Sunday, was asked if the Vikings came close to moving.
“Well, thankfully due to the leadership of the governor, the lieutenant governor, the Wilf family and others in this community, they didn’t let it get to that,” Goodell said. “They got a stadium built that works for this community and works for this team. We’re having a Super Bowl here [in 2018] and other big events are coming behind that.”
Vikings executive vice president Lester Bagley should get a lot of credit for getting U.S. Bank Stadium built.
Likes new stadium
What does Goodell think of the new stadium?
“Well, on my last trip, I got a chance to go down and see the stadium and it is awesome,” he said. “I think it fits this community. I think it’s got the best of all of the new stadium designs, bringing the light in the sides, some of the aspects that really make it unique to the Vikings and this community. I think that’s what we’re so excited about and we’re excited about having our Super Bowl here in that stadium.”
On another subject, Goodell was asked about the weather at game time Sunday — 6 below zero at kickoff at TCF Bank Stadium — and if he considered calling off the game.
“No, this is football weather,” he said. “We make sure everyone takes the right precautions, whether [it’s] our fans, administrative personnel, our teams. We were just down there and this is football weather, and this is what playing football in Minnesota in the playoffs is all about.”
Goodell also said that cold weather actually tends to help the NFL.
“When it’s colder around the country, people have a tendency to stay inside and watch a little more football, which is good for us, too,” he said.
NFL to use Kill
Former Vikings center Matt Birk, now the NFL’s director of football development, said the league is going to take advantage of former Gophers coach Jerry Kill’s popularity and knowledge.
“Jerry Kill is a football guy, and he’s a football treasure,” said Birk when he was here Sunday. “We need to utilize him the best that we can as it comes to helping mentor and nurture a next generation of coaches and players. We need to tap into guys like that and help utilize their talents.”
Kill is doing a forum for the NFL for coaches in Florida this month.
Will the NFL use him more than once?
“Well, we’ll see how it goes the first time … no, I’m kidding, of course, we’ll use him more than once,” Birk said. “He’s a guy that you look back over the years and through coaching [and see] how many lives he’s touched. I talked to him on the phone the other day, had a nice long conversation, and he’s one of those guys that gets it.
“He understands it’s about a lot more than wins and losses. Football is about building relationships, building trust, and positively effecting young people’s lives. That’s what he did for so long. Just because he’s not able to coach doesn’t mean he can’t continue to do that.”
Why does Birk think Kill connects so well?
“I think he’s a player’s coach, but he’s a coach’s coach, too,” he said. “Guys respect him because of what he’s able to accomplish. His career and his résumé speak for itself. You say ‘Jerry Kill’ and instantly people respect him.”
Leiweke with NFL
Tod Leiweke, who was the Wild’s first president, now is chief operating officer for the NFL.
Leiweke left the Wild to run the Seattle Seahawks in 2003, then became part owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 before joining the NFL front office last July.
He explained his role.
“Chief operating officer, but still love Minnesota,” he said. “I support the commissioner as he needs and sort of support him day to day in operations.”
Tod’s brother, Tim, who once worked for the Timberwolves, left a top executive job with the Toronto Maple Leafs and, in October, joined the new MLS team about to start in Miami owned by soccer superstar David Beckham.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org