BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Vikings are in the infancy stages of the 2018 offseason, but Rick Spielman made it perfectly clear Thursday morning that finding a new offensive coordinator is at the top of his priority list.
The Vikings general manager held a 20-minute session with beat reporters to tackle a number of topics, but he started off the period with an update about Minnesota's search to replace Pat Shurmur.
Spielman said hiring a new offensive coordinator is of the utmost significance, even before figuring out who will be the Vikings quarterback in 2018 and beyond.
Spielman gave reporters a timeline on when he and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer expect to hire someone.
"Last week and early this week, we've been doing our coaching search for the offensive coordinator position," Spielman said. "We'll continue that process next week, and then hopefully make a decision sometime in the near future after next week.
"We wanted to make sure we do our due diligence and go through the process very thoroughly [and] identify the right candidates," Spielman added. "We have done the first four out of town because of everything happening here in the city."
Spielman noted the Vikings may line up one or two more interviews "depending on what pops up. We'll see."
While Spielman did not name the four potential coaches who have already interviewed, he said he likely did not expect the need for second interviews with a candidate to occur. Spielman noted that he also spoke with candidates as an "Uber driver" shuttling candidates from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Zimmer's ranch where the interviews took place.
"I was not only helping organize that and sitting through those, I was an Uber driver as well," Spielman said. "I don't know how many miles I put back and forth between the Cincinnati airport and Coach Zim's ranch, but it gave me an opportunity to sit and speak with the coaches as you're driving with them. I know Coach Zim' is very happy with our staff, and I don't anticipate any changes [to the 2017 staff] at this time."
"I think we've got a pretty good feel for the people we have interviewed so far, there's a couple more we just want to get in front of," Spielman said. "I think by going through this process and doing it the way we're handling it, that we'll have a pretty good idea.
"I think the biggest thing looking for the offensive coordinator is that we have great chemistry on our coaching staff. They've done a phenomenal job, even from when Pat took over [in 2016] to taking Norv [Turner's] system and putting a little bit of his twist on it, then adding some things [Shurmur] learned from Chip Kelly as well," Spielman added. "However, the new offensive coordinator is, part of the process is, 'Do you blow it up and start from a whole new system? Or do you continue to build on what you've been able to do from the past year and a half?' Those are the decisions Coach Zim' will have to make."
Spielman said that the new coordinator will have a significant say in helping determine Minnesota's quarterback going forward.
"He'll have a major part of the decision-making process. He'll be heavily involved in that," Spielman said. "The way that we structure everything is that everybody has a part in that process … myself, Coach Zimmer, our scouting department and all of our coaches.
"Anytime we make a major decision, we have a systematic approach that I feel is very thorough so we can make the best decision possible," Spielman added. "This will be no different for whoever comes in."
Here are four more topics Spielman addressed at the Mall of America:
1. The finish in Philadelphia
The Vikings fell a win short of their first Super Bowl appearance in 41 years after losing to the Eagles in the NFC title game.
Spielman was asked what went wrong in Philadelphia as the league's top defense played its worst game of the season in a 38-7 loss.
Spielman noted that with the Vikings winning in such miraculous fashion the weekend before, the emotional high could have played a role in the defeat, but he said that wasn't an excuse.
"We just didn't play a good game. Offensively, defensively … we just didn't play like we did all year," Spielman said. "You never want to make an excuse for how we won the week before, but you look at the stats and teams who had won on a walk-off TD were 0-6 with a 24-point differential and minus-11 turnover [ratio].
"But that's not an excuse; we just didn't go out there and play well, and unfortunately, we were that close," Spielman added. "But to me, you move on. We don't have time to be feeling sorry for ourselves, we've got a lot of major decisions to make."
Spielman noted that the Vikings were quickly forced to look ahead to the offseason with Shurmur taking the Giants gig.
"Monday at 7 a.m. [after the game] I was in Coach Zim's office, and we got through the game and then, 'Hey, Pat Shurmur is going to be the head coach of the New York Giants,' so our focus on Tuesday was getting coaches lined up," Spielman said.
2. The offseason plan
Minnesota's 2017 season ended a month later than the 2016 season because of the Vikings deep playoff run.
But Spielman said Thursday that the success won't alter Minnesota's yearly offseason plan.
The Vikings general manager said work already has begun on looking ahead to the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft.
"How we usually operate is that we get through our Vikings personnel meetings and understand where your needs are and then look at the draft," Spielman said. "I know we're picking 30th this year, 'What kind of players are going to be in those areas?'
"We haven't got into that part of the process yet; we will in a few weeks. Our scouts have been out at the East-West Game and at the Senior Bowl. Our pro scouts have been, all this week, meeting on [unrestricted free agents]. We're on schedule like we've always been every year," Spielman added. "But you have to do it through the process, so when you go into the final game plan of how you want to improve your football team, you know where the depth is at and who's going to be there at pick No. 30."
3. An update on Cook
Dalvin Cook is on schedule to return to the field in 2018.
The Vikings second-round pick in 2017 was injured in Week 4 when he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season.
Spielman said Thursday that Cook's rehab and recovery could lead to similar success that former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has when he returned to the field in 2012 following an ACL injury of his own.
"He's progressed very nicely," Spielman said of Cook. "I talked to [Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman yesterday when we got back in town, and we don't see any reason where he's not going to be where Adrian Peterson was when he came off his knee [injury].
"We have no reason to believe Dalvin won't even be stronger than he was before the injury," Spielman added. "We're very excited about getting him back on the field."
Cook rushed for 354 yards on 74 attempts (4.8 yards per attempt) and scored two touchdowns in three-plus games in his rookie season.
4. Super Bowl Sunday
Spielman said he will be in attendance at Super Bowl LII between New England and Philadelphia at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But he won't dwell on the game as he will be back at work Monday looking for every possible chance to make sure his team is in the game next season.
"I will be at the Super Bowl Sunday," Spielman said. "I will watch the game and move on."