Vikings QB Talk Even Followed Spielman to a Church Service

Posted Mar 5, 2018

Composure is one of the most important aspects of playing quarterback.

It’s also helpful when making decisions affecting the position.

The future of the Vikings quarterback has been heavily debated this offseason, and speculation ramped up another level last week when the NFL Scouting Combine opened.

The annual meeting of NFL personnel departments, coaching and medical staffs to evaluate draft-eligible prospects also has evolved into a convergence opportunity for members of the media.

“Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen hosted two days of his 9 to Noon KFAN 100.3-FM radio show from Indianapolis and spoke with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, and not surprisingly, QB talk was one of the topics addressed by Spielman with Allen and Paul Charchian.

The Vikings have three quarterbacks — Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum — who have started games since 2015 that are scheduled to become free agents on March 14.

Minnesota also has Kyle Sloter, a 2017 rookie, under contract. The Vikings could re-sign one or more veterans, sign a free agent quarterback and/or draft a prospect.

It’s an uncommon scenario for a team that played in a conference championship and one that followed Spielman through all of his stops, including a Friday morning mass.

“[Friday morning], I went to mass at 6:30, and we had 13 priests in there,” Spielman said. “I was thinking, ‘Thank God, I can just get away from the quarterback thing.’ We went through all mass, and sure enough, when I went to get a cup of coffee, one of the priests came up [and said], ‘What are you going to do at quarterback?’ I was like, ‘God, I almost made it.’ ”

Spielman also was asked if he gets anxiety from going through the quarterback situation and responded, “None, because I think we are so prepared, and we go through the process so thoroughly.”

“I can’t tell you the amount of hours we’ve spent on this position,” Spielman continued. “The number one box was to get the offensive coordinator (John DeFilippo) hired, and once we got the offensive coordinator hired, we started right in. His first weekend, we spent eight hours on Saturday and another five on Sunday and started evaluating our guys, potential guys that could be out there in free agency.”

The Vikings hired DeFilippo after Super Bowl LII in which he served as Eagles quarterbacks coach, helping Nick Foles claim MVP honors.

DeFilippo helped Foles and Philadelphia adjust after Carson Wentz was lost late in the season with an ACL tear.

Knee injuries have played a significant role in creating the current questions facing the Vikings.

Bridgewater was building off his first Pro Bowl campaign when he suffered a knee dislocation and torn ACL in Minnesota’s final preseason practice of 2016. By that weekend, Spielman had worked out a deal to acquire Bradford from Philadelphia.

Bradford started all 16 games in 2016 and dazzled in the 2017 season opener but suffered a knee injury against the Saints that sidelined him for the next three starts. Bradford played just once more, starting at Chicago, but he was relieved by Keenum.

The Vikings quietly signed Keenum to a one-year deal last March after the initial wave of free agency.

Keenum responded to the new setting and opportunity by going 11-3 as a starter and helping Minnesota win at Chicago in the relief appearance. He connected with Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard “Miracle” finish in the Divisional round, but the season came to an end in Philadelphia the following week.

Bridgewater also returned to the field, appearing late in the game against Cincinnati when Minnesota clinched the NFC North in Week 15.

Going forward, Minnesota has more direct information on Bridgewater, Bradford and Keenum than any other team and will try to make the most-informed decisions.

Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski helped the Vikings adjust when Keenum got the call, and Spielman said he believes DeFilippo and Stefanski could work well with returning or new quarterbacks.

“I think it’s a combination of both DeFilippo and Kevin Stefanski to understand what we’re looking for in that quarterback, what his capabilities have to be,” Spielman said, “but also if this guy is the best player, ‘What can you do from a schematic standpoint to make sure he has the best chance of success?’

“A good example of that is last year, with what [former Offensive Coordinator] Pat Shurmur did with Sam Bradford and how we adjusted our offense to what Case Keenum does.”

Spielman said DeFilippo has installed “additions to what our offensive system is” and coaches “basically in the morning are spending time on schematic improvements and what they’re going to do from a scheme standpoint, and then in the afternoons, we spend time on personnel.”

As for this year’s field of prospects at the position, Spielman said, “I think everybody is going to know the top quarterbacks, but I think through the middle rounds [will have options].”

Spielman said his preferred assessment of quarterbacks occurs when he scouts college games each fall “because that’s where you get a true picture of what they are.”

“I get a chance to see most of these guys play at least once, because you’re not only evaluating what they’re doing on the field, but you can see how they interact with their coaches on the sideline, you can see how they interact with teammates,” Spielman said. “It’s amazing, just being at that game live, what that tells you about that player.”