EAGAN, Minn. — Monday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center presented a moment to reflect with appreciation and begin looking ahead to a new future.
Minnesota announced Monday that General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer will not be back in their respective roles, ending a 16-year run for Spielman and an eight-year tenure for Zimmer.
The decisions, announced by Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf and Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf, were difficult.
Yet as Mark Wilf met with Twin Cities media members via videoconference Monday afternoon, he also made it clear that ownership doesn't view this as a full-on rebuild for the Vikings, even with changes at the top.
"I don't want to get into a full rebuild conversation," Wilf said. "Our point is we have high expectations for this football team. We believe we can be super competitive right here in 2022.
"This is not in that mode of a full rebuild. Again, we believe we have a strong, strong foundation here on the field and around the building. I wouldn't classify it as that," Wilf added. "Again, we looked at our football team in its entirety. As difficult as a decision as it was, we feel it's the time and place to go in a different direction and get us to the next level, which is where we all want to be."
Here's an in-depth look at how the Wilfs, as well as Vikings leadership, will navigate the hiring process of both the general manager and head coach.
The GM hire comes first
Wilf made it clear that one of the two openings will get first priority.
"We're going to start out, both searches are starting right away, but the GM is going to be our first selection," Wilf said. "And then the GM will have input in the head coach. But we've begun our process right away.
"We know there are a lot of good candidates and we know that this a highly desirable place for people to be," Wilf added. "We have a great core of talent, great facilities, a great fan base, great community. We're confident we're on a good process and we've already gotten started on that work."
And while outside speculation has already started on possible candidates for both spots, Wilf was also asked about the possibility of missing out on potential coaching candidates because the team has to fill the GM void first.
"Well, we don't try to look at who's hot and who's cold, because we're just looking at the criteria I spoke about, which is great leaders, great communicators and great collaborators," Wilf said. "This is a highly desirable position to be leading the Minnesota Vikings.
"We're not going to get caught up in any kind of frenzies in terms of chasing this one or that one," Wilf later added. "We're going to be deliberate, we're going to be thorough and we're going to get the kind of leaders that our players will want to follow and that will get us success on and off the field. That's how we're approaching it."
Internal search process will be implemented
There won't be pricey outside search firm hired to help the Vikings determine their next general manager and head coach.
Instead, the Wilfs will rely on certain leaders who are already in the building and will remain with the team. That includes Minnesota's operations on both the football and business side of the franchise.
"We have a lot of leadership on the business side as well as on the football ops side who are going to participate on the committee," Wilf said. "We were just having a conversation on how we're going to go about it and divvy up responsibility but believe me, the cupboard is not bare.
"We have a great amount of football knowledge and business in this building and we're going to lean on that heavily to get that going. I'd rather not get into the specifics of who and what, but we have a plan in place," Wilf added. "The process will be methodical and comprehensive, and I'm confident that we're going to come out with a good clear direction that will excite our players, our fans and get us moving in a good direction."
The Vikings hired Andrew Miller as their Chief Operating Officer in August of 2019.
Rob Brzezinski is the Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations and has been with the Vikings since 1999. He has remained with the team through five different head coaches, including Zimmer.
This is not a rebuild
The Vikings 2021 season was defined by one close game after another. In fact, only three of Minnesota's 17 games weren't decided by eight or fewer points.
Each week was seemingly an exhausting roller-coaster ride, with most contests decided on the final drive or even the final play. Minnesota went 6-8 in those close games, as the Vikings tied an NFL record for the most one-score games in a single season.
It all culminated in an eventual 8-9 record. And even though he came away frustrated by the end results in 2021, Wilf said the pieces are in place for the Vikings to bounce back in 2022.
"I do believe we have great parts in place here, absolutely," Wilf said. "Again, our roster, what we have here, is some great talent.
"This past season, a lot of close games, I think it was some kind of historical record the amount of one-score games we had. We know in our situation we're close," Wilf added. "But, again, we're going to take a look at the entire situation with the coach and new GM and we're on the path to get that going. I do feel we can be a contender in 2022 and that's the way we view it."
Replacing Spielman is the first order of business. He had served as general manager since 2012 after a promotion from his previous role that began in 2006.
The Vikings are one of six teams that announced vacancies at head coach Monday along with the Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars and Raiders.
The 2022 offseason will be a busy one for the Vikings. The 2022 New League Year begins in just over two months, and Minnesota currently has the 12th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Prior to that, there are college football all-star games in the next few weeks and the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine (March 1-7).
New chapters of the franchise soon will be written, and Monday's changes were the first to turn the page.
"It's a difficult day because of the relationships we have with Coach Zimmer and Rick," Wilf said. "We really thank them for everything that they've done for our organization. They brought us to a new level where we're a first-class organization, a place that I think any coach or GM would want to come to.
"We strongly believe we need new leadership to elevate our football team," Wilf added. "Our goal is to consistently contend and win championships."