When the Vikings heard that Gary Kubiak was feeling drawn to return to coaching after two seasons in Denver’s personnel department, leaders quickly went to work to bring the former head coach to Minnesota.
“We were very aggressive to jump on that opportunity,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told media members during his podium session at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Spielman explained that it wasn’t just Kubiak’s experience – which includes multiple Super Bowl appearances and four total rings – that enticed the Vikings but also the scheme he comes from. And it wasn’t only Spielman who jumped at the chance to get Kubiak in the building.
According to Spielman, it was Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski who was the biggest proponent of the veteran coach.
“What’s unique about Kevin is that he has no ego,” Spielman said. “When we brought up the fact that a guy of Gary Kubiak’s stature could [join our staff], he was the one that was the biggest flag-waver for Gary. He wants that.
“And I think that’s what makes our building a little bit unique – no one really has an ego,” Spielman continued. “Everybody, whatever resources we can use, whatever areas of expertise, we have all these people, let’s do it together. Because ultimately, we want to win.”
Why was it that Minnesota stood out as Kubiak’s destination of choice?
“I think he had, maybe, other options out there,” Spielman said, “and I don’t want to speak for him, but I think the way he feels with the quarterback we have in place [in Kirk Cousins] and the quarterback playing in a scheme that we’re probably going to evolve to, to highlight what Kirk does best, was one of the attractions.
“But he also, I know in his career right now, and he’s mentioned this, [wanted] to mentor a young coach like Kevin Stefanski who, I think, is going to be an all-star in this league,” Spielman added.
Spielman expressed excitement about the Vikings coaching staff – including Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s contract extension and the offensive staff that has been restructured – heading into the 2019 campaign.
“When you get a group of people together, and a culture – and that starts with Coach Zimmer, the culture that we have set – that gives you the best chance to win, in my opinion,” Spielman said.
Continuing conversations with Barr, Richardson
Two of Minnesota’s defensive starters from 2018, linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, are set to become free agents next month.
Barr, whom the Vikings drafted ninth overall in 2014, is entering his sixth NFL season. Richardson now has six seasons under his belt but played his first campaign in Purple after signing a one-year deal with Minnesota as a free agent last spring.
Spielman was asked about a contract update on Barr and Richardson. The general manager refrained from talking about the business side but told media members, “We’ll meet with their agents out here” in Indianapolis.
“Like every year, we’re going to meet with every [agent] of our free agents coming up,” Spielman said. “It’s initial discussions. But, in general, it’s like, ‘Well, I want $150 million a year, but we want to give you $1 million a year.’ Eventually it gets to the free agency period, especially when you get to that negotiating window, that’s when you really start getting into meaningful negotiations.”
When specifically asked if the Vikings will use a franchise tag on a player this season, Spielman declined to disclose if the team plans to do so.
Anticipating ‘every possible scenario’
Spielman reminded media members that this is the time of year when multiple game plans related to rosters and contracts are evaluated and “every possible scenario” is anticipated.
“You weigh all the information that you’re getting,” Spielman said. “We go back and forth on, ‘OK, what if Scenario A happens here, or what if Scenario B happens? Can we keep A and B? That might not be possible.’ After you gather all of the information you can, you have to make very difficult decisions. But that’s what we get paid to do, to make those decisions.”
Providing an update on Nick Easton
The Vikings weathered a number of injuries during 2018, including one that occurred even before the season kicked off.
Nick Easton, who started all 12 games he played in 2017 (mainly at guard), underwent neck surgery last August for an injury suffered at training camp that placed him on Injured Reserve.
To an inquiry about Easton’s medical status, Spielman responded: “He went out to his doctor, so he’ll be cleared.”