Rick Spielman has been with the Vikings since 2006, serving first as the vice president of player personnel and second, since the start of 2012, as the general manager. Others certainly have had input on personnel matters during the Spielman era, but he’s been a consistent decisionmaker for this franchise for a dozen years.
Those have hardly been perfect years. They’ve been filled with notable hits and misses — with the misses often coming at the most important position on the field, quarterback.
But say this for Spielman and the Vikings: Recent weeks have offered pretty consistent evidence on a few fronts that they are trying to learn from past mistakes.
• The Vikings have gone to the NFC title game twice since Spielman’s arrival: in 2009 and last season. From 2009 to 2010, the Vikings took the easy route with their roster, which might have seemed like the right thing but proved to be a disaster.
They retained all 22 starters — every single player from offense and defense — between the two seasons, banking on the idea that a veteran group that had come up just short of a Super Bowl berth in an overtime loss to New Orleans could duplicate the magic. The result? Their win total went from 12 to six, Brad Childress was fired and a rebuild began.
This offseason, they could have played it safe and assumed continuity would ensure duplication of success. The Vikings could have elevated Kevin Stefanski to offensive coordinator after Pat Shurmur left, and they could have brought back Case Keenum as the starting quarterback. They also could have decided veteran Tom Johnson was good enough as an interior lineman and sought to keep him.
Instead, they went outside the organization to hire an OC (John DeFilippo), spent big on Kirk Cousins and took a shot at an upgrade over Johnson with Sheldon Richardson. There are no guarantees these moves will pay off, but the idea of moving forward instead of standing still is a sound one.
• Though the Vikings have won 32 games the past three regular seasons with an extremely unsettled QB situation, it’s a hard way to achieve long-term franchise success. Travel back to 2013 — when the Vikings were so desperate for a franchise quarterback that they signed Josh Freeman midyear and immediately put him into a game — and you see just how bad it can be.
Spielman and Co. bought themselves the best chance of both success and stability by signing Cousins and eschewing the relatively unproven Keenum and the injury risks of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford.
• The 2012 Vikings made the playoffs thanks to Adrian Peterson’s amazing year and at least the calm offered by Christian Ponder starting all 16 regular-season games. But backup Joe Webb was thrust into duty for the postseason, and the results were not pretty.
The 2016 Vikings had to trade for Sam Bradford when they decided Shaun Hill wasn’t good enough to fill in after Bridgewater was hurt.
The Vikings this offseason acquired Trevor Siemian in a trade with the Broncos. So now they have a clear No. 1 in Cousins, a developing but experienced young backup in Siemian and a developmental QB in Kyle Sloter.
After years of fumbling around thanks to some poor decisions and even poorer luck, the Vikings and Spielman just might have figured things out.