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Mark Wilf on NFC Title Game, QB Options and the Future of Vikings Franchise

Posted Jan 31, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — It’s been 10 days since the Vikings season ended in the NFC Championship against the Eagles.

Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf held a session with beat writers Wednesday afternoon at the Mall of America that the Vikings ownership group feels the pain the fans have in coming up a win short of a Super Bowl berth.

“It was a very disappointing day. I know we’re still in the process of examining it and seeing how we can get better for next year,” Wilf said. “There are a lot of highs and lows in this sport, and the week before we had such an incredible high for our fans.

“We felt disappointed, not just for our organization, but most importantly for the fans,” Wilf added. “We view ourselves as stewards of this franchise, and our No. 1 role is to do what we can to provide the resources so we can compete and win championships.”

Wilf spoke for more than 25 minutes to reporters about a variety of topics ranging from having the Super Bowl in Minnesota, to the future of the franchise and what the Vikings will do at the quarterback position.

Here are four more key takeaways from Wilf’s media session:

1. The quarterbacks

Perhaps the biggest question facing the Vikings entering the 2018 offseason is what Minnesota will do at the quarterback position.

All three quarterbacks who saw the field in 2017 — Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater — are all set to have their contracts expire at the end of the league year next month.

Wilf said the Vikings first priority is to name a new offensive coordinator, which he hopes will happen “sooner rather than later.” Then the organization will start on the path to determine the team’s future quarterback.

Wilf noted that he will be involved with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer in that process.

“We’re constantly communicating with Rick and Coach Zimmer. This will be a process,” Wilf said. “We need to get the coordinator in and review where we’re at.

“We’re in a situation, thankfully, where we have three, really four, solid quarterbacks on our roster. I know we need to improve our team to get where we want to get. We can’t rest on our laurels, and all the great franchises continue to improve,” Wilf added. “The lesson we’ve learned over the years is that we constantly need to work the puzzle and pieces to make sure we have a better product the year after.” 

Wilf said the goal of this offseason is to find Minnesota a quarterback for the long-term and not just for next season.

“That’s certainly your dream scenario and something we’re always working on. It’s a matter of trusting the process, but we’ll work with what’s in front of us,” Wilf said. “Who’s on our roster, who’s out there, who can we draft? There are a lot of moving parts, but as ownership, we have a lot of confidence that we have the right people monitoring that.”

When asked about Bridgewater, Wilf offered high praise for how the quarterback responded from a devastating injury 17 months ago.

“Every player is unique and special, but Teddy … I’ve been inspired with how he’s come back from this injury and how he kept his head high throughout,” Wilf said. “It shows a lot of leadership and character. We knew that before the injury, and we saw it even more in the last year and a half. Great individual, and we’re proud and inspired with how he’s come back.”

2. Looking ahead to free agency

While the buzz of the football world is rightfully centered on Sunday’s Super Bowl, the 2018 league year and free agency will kick off in six weeks on March 14.

Wilf said the Vikings will soon begin an internal look at their roster before branching out and focusing on potential additions to the team. 

The main goal, Wilf noted, is to boost an already strong roster, something he feels confident Spielman and Zimmer will be able to do. 

“With Rick Spielman and Coach Zimmer, they’re in their fourth season as General Manager and Head Coach [together]. I think they’re improving at their craft every day, too, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that,” Wilf said. “They will self-scout, and everyone in the organization will self-scout. What can we do better? How can we improve?

“That’s where we start in the offseason. With that, we have learned things and mistakes will be made,” Wilf added. “But you learn from your mistakes and take the positives and grow from those.” 

Wilf noted that the Vikings won’t grade potential free agents based on talent alone. He mentioned how he wants the right kind of players in the organization who fit the core belief of the Vikings.

“Certainly from an ownership standpoint, the kind of people they are is important,” Wilf said. “There’s fits in terms of size or football qualifications … but character is a big deal for us, and I think we’ve come a long way in that regard.

“I’m proud of our players, all 53 on our roster … our Walter Payton Man of the Year, Kyle Rudolph … it goes down the line, and we’re real proud of that,” Wilf added.

3. The “Minneapolis Miracle”

Fans of all ages will forever remember where they were when Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs hauled in a 61-yard touchdown pass on the final play of Minnesota’s improbable 29-24 win over New Orleans in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Wilf is included in that group, as he recalled the excitement level in the Vikings Owners’ suite when Diggs was streaking down the sideline to secure the win.

But Wilf then cautioned how he didn’t want that moment to be the defining one in franchise history.

“Right after it happened, I was in a pile. All of us were jumping on each other and celebrating,” Wilf said. “I’ve never had such a euphoric experience at a sporting event. It was a great moment, and we’ll remember it the rest of our lives.

“But again, there’s one more moment we’re looking forward to and that’s to hold the trophy,” Wilf added.

4. A 13-year journey

The 2017 season marked the 13th year the Wilf family has owned the Vikings, and there have been plenty of milestones along the way.

Besides hiring a respected coach in Zimmer, the Vikings have opened up a new stadium and are in the midst of helping host Super Bowl LII in the Twin Cities.

The next phase of the franchise is right around the corner as the Vikings are roughly a month away from opening Twin Cities Orthopedics Center, the team’s state-of-the-art training facility and headquarters in Eagan.

Wilf said there have been plenty of moving parts behind the scenes as the move begins to take place.

“The Eagan move will begin as soon as next week. We’ll begin rolling that out,” Wilf said. “I’d say by the first week of March and when free agency kicks in, we’re going to have our whole operation over there.

“Twin Cities Orthopedics is a great partner, and the City of Eagan is going to be great,” Wilf added. “We’re really excited to finally have all of our employees effectively under one roof.”

Wilf then reflected on the dozen-plus years that he and his family have embraced Minnesota and taken the franchise to new heights.

“This has been 13 years under our ownership, and I look back to where we were in 2005, trucking in air conditioning to the locker room at Winter Park, the whole arc of this stadium process and working with the government,” Wilf said. “I just look back and try to reflect sometimes and catch my breath, hopefully when this settles down, and think we’ve come a long way. 

“As a franchise, we really are at the top in so many ways,” Wilf added, “We just need to finish if off with some trophies.”