EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A few comments after sitting in on the Minnesota Vikings' news conference to announce Rick Spielman's promotion to general manager:
By all accounts, Spielman has acquired extensive authority — and not just a fancy title — with this move. Owner/president Mark Wilf said Spielman "will oversee all football-related activities and operations" and "all roster and personnel decisions" will be "in Rick's hands." That means Spielman will have final say over the draft, all player transactions and the composition of the 80- and 53-man rosters.
The one check on Spielman's power is supervision of the coaching staff. He will make roster and player decisions once reserved for the head coach in the old structure, but coach Leslie Frazier will continue to report directly to owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. "Ownership will make that determination on the head coach," Spielman said. From everything I can tell, however, that's an issue of semantics. The Wilfs would be circumventing their apparent intent if they didn't listen to the advice of the man they've placed in charge of "all football-related activities." If Spielman wants to fire the head coach and/or hire a new one, I imagine the Wilfs will consent.
Most of you aren't going to care about the new process the Vikings have for making football decisions. But here's what will interest you: Spielman emotionally and unequivocally accepted complete accountability for the successes and failures of the team going forward. "I will be held accountable for those decisions," he said. At one point, Spielman paused to collect himself before saying: "3-13 is not acceptable for our fans of the Minnesota Vikings. It's not acceptable for our ownership. It's not acceptable for this organization." For better or worse, there is no doubt about who is in charge at the team's Winter Park facility.
Spielman acknowledged his mixed record as a personnel executive with the Miami Dolphins, a tenure that ended after his promotion to general manager in 2004. He departed after the Dolphins finished 4-12 that season. "You look back through all of your experiences," Spielman said. "I'm a very big historian on seeing what happened, and the only way to me that you get better is by experiencing some of the setbacks. When you experience some of the setbacks, you really analyze why it was like that, or what did you do, or what would you do differently? So when similar situations occur going forward, you'll know how to handle them better."
Perhaps the most tangible bi-product of the traditional structure is that it empowers the general manager to make long-term decisions. The Vikings entered the 2011 draft in desperation mode at quarterback because no one had the authority to plan for the end of Brett Favre's tenure. It would be inexcusable for a traditional general manager to act with so little regard for the future. Spielman: "It's also my responsibility as we move forward in making decisions not only to look for the short-term success on the football field, but also looking out for our long-term goals so that we can be successful year in and year out."
I know many of you were hoping for more dramatic changes after 23 losses in the past 32 games. You see Spielman as part of the problem, not someone who deserves to be empowered with finding the solution. I understand where you're coming from. But the official approach of this blog will be to give Spielman a clean slate from this moment. It's impossible to know what he is or isn't responsible for during this tailspin. For the first time in decades, however, we have no gray area for accountability and evaluation moving forward. The clock on the Rick Spielman Era starts today.