Vikings Owner Mark Wilf/General Manager Rick Spielman/Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Vikings Owner Mark Wilf
Good afternoon, thank you all for being here today. On behalf of the entire Vikings organization, I am very pleased today to announce that we have named Rick Spielman as the General Manager of our ball club. In this role, Rick will oversee all football related activities and operations. He will also continue to direct college and pro personnel programs and departments. We are very pleased to make this announcement and we have a great deal of confidence in putting all roster and personnel decisions for the Vikings in Rick’s hands. We have worked closely with Rick for several years and have seen first hand his tremendous work ethic, experience and ability to evaluate talent. My brother Zygi and I and our ownership feel very strongly that we needed to establish a clear organizational structure, accountability and consistency throughout our decision- making process; enhancing our ability to achieve success for many years to come. We are committed to doing everything we can to get the Vikings back on the winning path and to bring world championships to Minnesota and all of our fans. We have a lot of work ahead of us and today is an important step in moving the Vikings forward. With that, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings Rick Spielman.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
First off, I would like to thank the Wilf family for giving me the opportunity to become General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings. I know, in this position, that I will be held accountable for all football matters going forward. I am very excited about that opportunity and am ready to embrace the challenges ahead. With this structure in place, it is going to give us more consistency on how we are going to make decisions moving forward. 3-13 is not good enough. 3-13 is not acceptable for our fans of the Minnesota Vikings. It is not acceptable for our ownership, it’s not acceptable for this organization, and I am going to take my share of the responsibility in that 3-13 record. Moving forward, what I believe we have to do is look at things from the positive, but also look at the things we have done negatively; where the mistakes were made, why they were made. We have to have open, frank, objective discussions moving forward and then come up with a plan of action for preventing from making those mistakes again. It is also my responsibility as we move forward in making decisions to look for the short term success on the football field, but also looking out for our long term goals so we can be successful year in and year out. There are a lot of challenges ahead, there are going to be a lot of tough decisions that are going to have to be made. We are going to start that process as of today. As we go forward, the 2011 season is behind us, we are now getting the Minnesota Vikings ready to meet the challenges in 2012.
Q: You seem pretty emotional, what is going through your mind as you look to take over this job?
A: Its excitement, but it’s also the disappointment from the season we had, and I don’t think anyone in this organization is satisfied with how we ended up this year. You can’t be. We have to focus on how we are going to move forward and that’s what our objective is. I don’t think anyone in this organization will ever want to go through an experience like the 3-13 season like we had this year.
Q: Was there an underestimation of the talent level of this roster, and if so how did that happen?
A: Again, when we went through the decision process last year and what we felt was putting out a competitive roster; I was involved in all those decisions. I think going forward, now I will be held accountable for those decisions. We are going to start a process next week; I know our coaches and my staff are writing up our players this week. We are going to have to look at our roster, determine who can win ball games for us, who can’t win ball games for us and where we need to move on. Then the next process is going to be, where are the strengths in free agency? Where are the strengths in the draft? We have the process in place, now we just have to make the correct decisions as we go through our process.
Q: What’s your confidence level in Leslie, is he your guy going forward?
A: Ownership will make that determination on the head coach. I will still work very closely with Leslie on all our decisions going forward, but I know I will now be held accountable for all those decisions.
Q: Is it still an open question whether he will be the coach?
A: No, there is no question; Leslie is our head football coach going into next year. I have the utmost confidence in him leading us to where we need to go.
Q: What didn’t work about the triangle of authority that was established years ago, and do you need clear autonomy to work in the NFL, personnel-wise?
A: I think, if you look through other organizations, what our ownership did, they found what was working successfully in the NFL. I think this structure will give us a chance to be successful going forward. That is the thing we are looking forward to getting going.
Q: When you talk about having more consistency in the decision making process, how do you envision that playing out with the people involved?
A: I think our process as we go through will be thoroughly discussed. Our ownership, our head coach, our coaching staff; all the people involved in this decision process will get a voice to say what they think, the difference will be when we make our personnel decisions and when we go forward, I will have the final authority on what that decision is going to be.
Q: What do you see as the number one issue with this franchise?
A: It’s hard to say. When people look at 3-13, it’s a disaster but I really believe internally everybody knows there are a lot of positive things going on and it may not have shown this year. I think by doing a structural change in a structural organization, that will help clarify a lot of things in the building so that there is one person responsible as we move forward which should hopefully produce what we want to produce on the field going into next year and hopefully the future years.
Q: Do you see any changes in your scouting staff or your particular staff in football operations?
A: We’ll look at everything. I don’t predict any changes in the scouting department. We may have some restructuring on who is going to be responsible for what as my role moves up. Coach Frazier will be responsible for all of the coaches. He’ll have the final authority on everything from the coaching staff and the changes that will be made and I will be working with Leslie giving my input as well, but Coach Frazier will have the final say on the football coaches.
Q: When you were hired here in 2006 did you have any hope of eventually becoming the General Manager?
A: Again, I wanted to do whatever it took for us to win ball games and that’s still my objective. I felt very blessed to get an opportunity to come here because I know what a unique place this is, what a special place this is with the fan base, with the tradition of the Minnesota Vikings. What a special place it is to work for the ownership group that we do have in place.
Q: Are you sold on
A: Leslie will make the decision on who is going to be the starting quarterback and not-starting quarterback but I have the utmost faith in Christian Ponder. I know when you go back and look at the studies of the rookie quarterbacks that have been taken through at midpoint during the season, I looked at all of their statistical analysis and Christian Ponder came out almost identical to a lot of those guys from Jay Cutler to Eli Manning to a lot of those players that took over. I know with the quarterback position there are a lot of growing pains that you have to go through but all of our research and everything that we did to make that decision last year in the Draft, I have the utmost confidence Christian Ponder is going to be our franchise quarterback.
Q: Was Ponder your choice or did you have to be swayed to take him because there were other quarterbacks available at the time?
A: No. Again, when we went through the decision process, everybody was involved and we made decisions based on what was best for our organization but I was one hundred percent behind the Christian Ponder selection.
Q: How much will your experience in Miami inform to your approach here?
A: I think you learn from your experiences. We had a lot of success down in Miami. We had the one disastrous year but that’s how you get better, and to me, that’s what we’re going to do. Internally and all of our football ops departments is to look and see where we can get better, identify where we can get better, and come up with that plan of action on how to get better, not just say, ‘Yeah, we made a mistake here, what are you going to do?’ No, it’s going to be, ‘Yeah, we made a mistake. Now what are we going to do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?’
Q: Do you have a time limit to turn this around or contract?
A: I’ll have the ownership address all of my contract concerns. I’m not going to talk about those. Those are kept internally but all I know is we’re going to do all we can to get ready for the 2012 season.
Q: Do you feel like you’re in a rebuilding process now?
A: Retooling, rebuilding. Again, we’re going to have to look at our roster and identify those needs and then we’re going to have to aggressively go out and fill those needs when we come out on the end on where we think our current roster is.
Q: You’ve had some close games this year. You’re not that far away are you?
A: No, and you see it in the NFL where teams can turn very quickly. Every year there are four or five new teams back in the Playoffs and I don’t have any doubt that we’re going to do everything we can to try to get us in that position and that’s what the offseason is. That’s where you get your football team better. Losing those games, to me, whether you lost by five or lost by seven or lost by 40, those are still losses and we’re going to be held accountable for wins and losses.
Q: You’ve built this team around running the ball and stopping the run. In a pass-happy league, is it time to change that?
A: Again, that’s the working relationship I have with Leslie Frazier as the head coach. I have to understand what they’re trying to run on defense. I have to understand what type of personnel they’re looking for and it’s our responsibility to get them the right players to run the schemes. Leslie Frazier is our leader. He is going to put that football team and lead that team on Sundays but it’s our responsibility to make sure he has the right personnel to do that.
Q: Why did you stay silent all year and let Leslie take the bullets from the media?
A: Because I wasn’t a GM. That wasn’t my role.
Q: So things change now?
A: We’ll discuss our media policy going forward.
Q: How long has this been in the works? Did this happen after the season?
A: Again, there are a lot of internal discussions that have been going on but the decision was made yesterday from the Wilf family. I know they talked to Leslie, they talked to myself and felt this was the best to move forward for our organization.
Q: How much did you feel handcuffed in doing things with having to collaborate with the head coach on decisions?
A: Again, that was the structure and I was willing to do whatever I could to work within that structure to make it work, and we made some good decisions in that structure and we made some mistakes as well but that doesn’t say, ‘Was I unhappy?’ No. I was very excited just to be a part of this organization and to be able to work with people like the Wilf ownership, to be able to work with people like Brad Childress, to be able to work with people like Leslie Frazier and those relationships will continue.
Q: Do you expect this to change the collaboration you have with Leslie on personnel matters? Will there be any difference on how you two work together compared to before?
A: No, I think we will still have open discussions. We still have to listen to what the coaches are saying because coaches will still be heavily involved as we go through all of our personnel but it’s my responsibility in the end to decide what’s best for this organization moving forward and I know I had a great conversation with Leslie and he’ll come up to speak to you. I have no doubt moving forward that this is even going to grow stronger in our relationship to put a winner on the field.
Q: With accountability comes pressure. How do you think you’ll handle that?
A: I’m very excited about it. That’s what you want. When you’re in professional sports, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a coach, I thrive off that and I really enjoy the pressure part of it.
Q: As you look at this roster, what is the biggest need on this team?
A: Again, I think until we get through our process and go through that, there are going to be a lot of things I think we’re going to have to look at and where we are going to have to rebuild, or where we’re going to have to get new and I don’t think you can just focus on, ‘This is our top priority.’ I think you have to have a global look at your roster and be upfront and honest and objective, ‘Can we win or can’t we win with this guy?’ And if we can’t, we need to move on and if we’re moving on, what’s our plan of action of how we’re going to replace that guy.
Q: When you look at your body of work here, what do you think is your biggest success and biggest failure?
A: You guys determine that. We’ve had some successful drafts but everybody is going to have misses as well but I know I’m going to be judged from this day going forward on what’s done.
Q: Are you going to hire an assistant GM?
A: No, I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at from a standpoint of my department with George Paton, he’s our Player Personnel Director. His responsibilities may increase some. Scott Studwell I think is one of the best guys I’ve ever worked around as far as being a College Director and going out and evaluating talent and I’m very excited about the staff that I have in place here. I think the one thing that we did to analyze ourselves is we came up with a system where I have a percentage on each guy, and I do it to myself. What is our percentage on hitting in each round? How does that compare to the NFL average? How does that compare to the current playoff teams? And each individual scout. How are you grading those players coming out of your area? Are you on or are you missing? We go down as deep as, ‘Are you a better grader as an offensive line evaluator or do you grade better at receiver?’ And by getting all of that information, it’s a process where I can show the guy on tape and I show myself, ‘Hey, you’re too hard of a grader in this area. These guys have made it and you said they wouldn’t or ‘You’re being too light in this area where we need to make sure we improve in this area.’ It’s a self-scout check in the scouting department if that makes sense.
Q: You say that you are graded too, who grades you?
A: I did it on myself. But I also gave all that information to our ownership and then I know you guys are going to grade it from your seats.
Q: What did the organization see in Donovan McNabb’s viability as a starting quarterback that the Redskins and the Eagles didn’t?
A: Again, I go back to those decisions and I’d like to keep those decisions internally. But at the time we made that decision, we felt that it was the best move for our organization moving forward, especially with the circumstances that we were dealing with; with the lockout and with having a rookie quarterback. That was the decision that was made and I was part of that process.
Q: Did you lobby ownership to make this change?
A: I didn’t lobby anything.
Q: Were you the only candidate?
A: I don’t know that. I just know that Mark and Zygi have been very supportive of me over the last five years. I think they know the body of work that they’ve seen. I don’t think there was any other candidate, to my knowledge.
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon. Congratulations to Rick, I think that’s a good move for our organization. Having Rick in that GM role really should enhance my role and my responsibilities here with the Minnesota Vikings. It should help me tremendously, and help our football team and our organization as well. We’ve had a good working relationship over the last year- and-a-half. And, this should really help us going forward to do the things that are necessary this offseason to improve our football team and put forth a team that will give our fans a lot to cheer for in the year 2012. Looking back at Sunday, just a recap from an injury standpoint, we have an update on
Q: You said that you haven’t finalized any changes to your coaching staff, where are you in that process and when would you like to have those decisions made?
A: I’ll continue to talk with our staff and evaluate some of the things that we’re doing over the rest of this week. I don’t have a time table where those decisions will be made. But there will be ongoing discussions throughout.
Q: When you evaluate yourself and what you could have done better, any changes you’d like to make in terms of how you felt this year went?
A: Yeah, there are some things that I want to take a look at and hopefully do better in 2012. That’s a part of it. Anytime, any situation, whether you’re in a win or loss situation; in my case, the buck stops with the head coach. And I understand that. There are some things that I have to do better in 2012 as well.
Q: What do you sense will be enhanced with this new power structure?
A: I think for me, it just creates clarity in some of the things that we do from a decision standpoint. And that’s extremely important when you’re in the role that I’m in. It levels the playing field in so many ways. So, it’s a plus in that regard.
Q: Did you find that there was confusion in this first year, trying to navigate that process?
A: No. The biggest thing is, you just want to know what the lines of demarcation are. For me, I know exactly where I need to go when I have to talk about certain matters and get those things handled, and that’s good. It’s really good for me.
Q: A number of your players mentioned that they don’t necessarily want a change in scheme; do you get their input on that at all?
A: I talk to our players. I talk with them; they’re the guys who are out there playing. I listen to what they have to say, but at the end of the day, I have to do what I think is best for our team. I listen to their input, it’s important to me, they know that. But, when it’s all said and done, I have to try to make a decision based on what I think is best.
Q: As you look at this roster, what right now is the number one need, position wise?
A: We have a number of areas that we have to address this offseason. The good thing is, we’re drafting high enough where we know we’re going to get some good players. When it gets to NFL free agency, we’ll have to do the same thing; identify what our area of needs are, and go after the right guys. But, we have a number of areas we have to address, and not being specific today, I don’t want to be as specific today.
Q: Is the 3-4 defense an option for the 2012 season?
A: I don’t want to eliminate any possibilities at this point, but my background is 4-3. I want to do what is best for our team. You take a look at your personnel, and you determine what you do based on your personnel. You don’t want to jump on the bandwagon purely because it is popular in some other city and they have had success. If it doesn’t fit what you do, you better do what fits you.
Q: Looking at your current roster, could it translate to a 3-4?
Q: How do you factor
A: I don’t know if you can. There as so many unknowns with Chris. At this point Chris is not on my radar. As we are going forward and having to sit down and discuss our personnel and what we have to get done, until I know conclusively what is going to happen with Chris Cook, I can’t really factor him into what we are trying to get accomplished.
Q: Did this season shake your confidence that you are the right man to lead this team?
A: Not at all. I have complete confidence that we will get things going in the right direction. There were enough things that I saw this season that tell me that it’s a real possibility. It is the first year for me and our staff together. I am optimistic about 2012 and beyond, I really am.
Q: Will Rick Spielman have input on your coaching staff and schemes that you run?
A: Rick and I will talk about everything. We will discuss our roster, our team, our staff and try to come to some conclusion on what is best for our football team.
Q: Do you feel like you have a support system in Rick?
A: I really do. I felt that way throughout this season and I don’t think adding a title will change that. I think it really should enhance our role and our relationship.
Q: With having the 3rd pick and being at the top of the waiver system, does it give you a chance to cycle out the roster?
A: That was one of the points I alluded to a moment ago. The fact that we are drafting as high as we are, we are going to have a chance to get some very good football players and I know between Rick and our scouting department that is going to be addressed and we will make some good decisions which should improve our roster.
Q: Do you head into the draft thinking about how to stop teams in the NFC North?
A: You do have to take a look at your division and what is happening in your division. How can you get back in the mix? We have to take a real hard look at a number of areas. We definitely have to take a look at what we are doing from a defensive standpoint. Our secondary will be key to that. The quarterbacks in our division along with the receivers that we face, we have to do a good job of identifying the right people to help us to improve on defense.
Q: How do you think you can improve your in-game management?
A: Just continue to communicate with the people I talk with upstairs and just making sure I have a good handle on what the situation is; what is going on on the football field.
Q: Are you heading into next year with Christian Ponder being the starting quarterback?
A: When we open up OTAs, Christian will be our number one quarterback. We fully expect him to improve and get better.
Q: What are the challenges in unifying a vision with Rick going forward?
A: I think our vision is the same. Just like Mark and Zygi, we want to bring a world championship to Minnesota. That is the vision and we are going to sit down and talk through the plan for this 2012 season going forward and beyond. That is the unifying goal; to bring a world championship to Minnesota.
Q: Have you had any contact with Chris Cook since he has been inactive and what level of confidence do you have that he has used his time to put him in a position to help you next year?
A: I have spoken to him a few different times and it’s hard to determine where things are with Chris with not being able to sit down face-to-face but we’ll learn in a few months what his future will hold.
Q: Are you referring to his legal situation in terms of what the organization decides?
A: More so the legal situation. That will determine a great deal of what happens going forward.
Q: How could you trust him again if he happens to get out of this?
A: It’s a good question and one that we’ll have to determine if Chris is going to be a part of what we do going forward. That decision still hasn’t been made. We have no idea what’s going to happen with him going forward and once there’s some clarity, the decision will be made.
Q: What don’t you have control of now that you did this season? What has changed with Rick?
A: Probably the biggest thing for us is that we have a General Manager now who will be in charge of football operations. That is a good thing for our football team. We have a person that has final say on so many areas on our football team and that’s probably the most important thing, just knowing that fact going forward.
Q: Does this strike you as a demotion in your duties?
A: No, it goes back to what I said earlier. It really enhances my role as head football coach. I really think it’s a positive and I’m all for it and I’m excited about Rick being in that role. I think it’s a good thing for our organization.
Q: When it comes to free agency, how do you sell those guys on wanting to be a Viking?
A: I think with every player that you entertain when it comes to free agency, it’s not a whole lot different when we sat down with Jared Allen a few years ago and talked to him about what we’re trying to get accomplished here in Minnesota and it will be similar when we talk with free agents in 2012, depending on what direction we go. You really have to sell them on what you’re doing and what our vision is here in Minnesota and then it’s up to them to determine whether or not it’s a good fit for them and what they want to get accomplished.
Q: You must have a list of guys that you think can play and one of guys who can’t. What is the length of both?
A: We have some good guys in our locker room, some good players and myself, Rick, and our staff will sit down and determine who are going to be the guys who are going to be a part of our football team going forward. That’s a lengthy process and one that we have to be very thorough on as a group and we have some hard decisions to make in the days to come.
Q: Do you sense
A: I don’t know that. Cedric has done some good things for us over the course of his career. He and I will sit down and talk again over the course of this offseason and make a determination about what’s going to be best for him, what’s going to be best for us.
Q: We saw a very calm demeanor in you all season. Is there another side to you when you deal with these players that we don’t see when you’re trying to get a message across to them?
A: I think our guys know when I’m not pleased with some of the things that occurred in situations and try to get that point across, we’re not pleased with where we are coming out of this past season and we have some things that we have to address but every situation is different. There are moments where you have to elevate sometimes and they know when those moments are but it’s not always calm and composed, not always.