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Adam Thielen Discusses Vikings Offseason of Change on Ben Leber's Podcast


EAGAN, Minn. – Like Vikings fans all over the country, Adam Thielen is waiting in anticipation to see who the team's next head coach and general manager will be.

But Thielen, who is turning the page to his 10th NFL season (ninth on the 53-man roster), understands it isn't only about two individuals. It's about the staff and the culture those individuals cultivate throughout the organization.

Thielen recently joined broadcaster and former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber on his podcast, Unrestricted with Ben Leber, and the two discussed a number of topics, including the imminent change in leadership.

"I think that a really good leader, a really good coach, brings really good people around him. So maybe things that they're not really good at, they bring people in who are really good at that so there's no holes," Thielen told Leber. "Even me as a player, I have to understand myself what I'm really good at and what I'm not good at. And I need to put people around me to help me with the things I'm not as good at.

"I think that's so important and [can get] so overlooked when you're looking for a head coach or looking for somebody who's going to run a company," Thielen continued. "They can be a great person and a great coach or a great leader, but if you don't have good people around you, it doesn't matter."

Thielen was extended his opportunity in the NFL when he was signed in 2013 after attending a rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He was on the practice squad for Leslie Frazier's final season. Then Mike Zimmer took the helm in 2014 and remained in the role until Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf and Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf announced that the organization was parting ways with Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman.

What Thielen has appreciated is the opportunity to share his insight as a player with the Wilfs.

"It's actually been a really cool process so far. The owners came to us right after our team meeting, before everybody left, and talked to just a few of us – captains, leaders of the team – and asked our input. What do we think would be great for a head coach? What are we missing? In every aspect of the building. What could we do better to take us to the next level?" Thielen explained. "I thought that was pretty cool of them. They definitely didn't need to do that. … And I don't know what they'll take from that conversation, but just to listen and to talk, I thought, was really beneficial."

Thielen emphasized to Leber, as he did with Twin Cities media members earlier this month, the importance of fostering a strong culture.

"[Lots of coaches] come in and are like, 'We're gonna be a family' … but it's about putting words into action," Thielen said. "And I'm not saying the old staff didn't do that, because there were definitely aspects where they did do that.

"But I think having good communication, good leadership, good collaboration – and those are all the things I heard the Wilfs talk about in their press conference – it's like, 'Man, that is so true.' Communication is obviously important, but collaboration is even better," Thielen added.

The 31-year-old said it's imperative to work together as a collective group.

"When you have that, I think you have a lot better opportunity to have success," Thielen noted. "Does that mean you're going to win a Super Bowl? No. It doesn't mean you're going to win a Super Bowl – it's tough to do that – but you're going to give yourself the best opportunity to win a Super Bowl. And to get that culture that guys want to come to and want to be a part of."

While Thielen's intensity on the field is undeniable, the Detroit Lakes native tends to be pretty even-keeled when it comes to off-field media sessions or interviews.

The energy in his voice, though, was evident in the conversation with Leber.

"I'm excited about the direction we're headed. There's still a long way to go and a lot of work, because it doesn't just happen with two people," Thielen said.

He added that it "wasn't just the GM's fault and the coach's fault" that Minnesota missed the postseason in back-to-back years.

"They didn't get fired because they weren't really good at their job. It's a team effort. Players could have played better; people in the building could have done better at their jobs," Thielen said. "So hopefully [the Wilfs are] looking at the big picture of everybody and holding everybody accountable and looking at where we're missing and what leadership needs to change to really take that next step."

Leber shared his personal outlook, that he imagines the Vikings to be the "top, premier" target organization for those interviewing for head coach or general manager vacancies.

"You've got all the weapons. You don't have to change much," Leber said. "We don't need big, sweeping changes on the whole team. It's like, 'Make a small change here or there, and let's go.' "

Thielen concurred, reiterating the excitement of speaking with ownership and hearing their vision for the team.

Ultimately, the Wilfs could have said, "We've gotta blow this thing up," Thielen pointed out. But they didn't.

"That wasn't the mindset. … They told us, 'We know we're not far away. We just think with a little fresh, new, good leadership and just a whole look at the entire big picture of getting good people … we're not far away,' " Thielen recounted. "We told the owners, and they obviously agreed, 'We should be a destination.' We should be a place where a coach wants to get the job.

"I think it's a place and a situation where if I was a coach or a GM, 'Are you kidding me? I get to come to that situation? That's amazing.' That doesn't happen most of the time," Thielen continued. "And that's credit to Zim' and Rick. They brought in really good people. They brought in really good players and really good people off the field, and talent, and they got us to a place where we're not far away. So I'm excited about that."

View the best wide receiver photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

To listen to Leber's full interview with Thielen, which also includes injury updates and Thielen's thoughts on the Vikings receivers room, click here.