Well, the lack of “unnamed sources” was nice while it lasted.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today coaxed some quotes out of Vikings players, speaking on the condition of anonymity, regarding the decision to start Josh Freeman less than two weeks after signing him. The article does little to clarify who ultimately decided that Freeman would start that game, a crucial must-win matchup, but we know for certain that it was Leslie Frazier who was selling the idea to the rest of the locker room.
“You could tell Josh did not know the offense,” one player told Pelissero. “Practices did not really go that well that week. But Coach Frazier was in the team meetings like, ‘Oh, I think this is the best week of practice we’ve had all year.’ And everyone’s like, what? What are you talking about?”
“Debacle,” said another player describing the decision. “When they started Josh in that Giants game, we were as confused as anybody.”
The decision to sign Freeman really didn’t cost the Vikings much. In return for the $2 million he will be paid they got an up-close look at a young, experienced NFL quarterback and the possibility of getting a compensatory pick if he is not retained. What they lost was the $2 million, which was unlikely to be spent on any other mid-season signings, and project quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
The gamble wasn’t the signing, it was the decision to play him so soon, and the results were pretty atrocious.
Freeman is due to become a free agent this offseason. Pelissero cites four different sources that say Freeman was late for team meetings on multiple occasions while with the Vikings and one player noted that he was often one of the last players to show up to Winter Park. If true, these issues combined with his one awful performance, likely means Freeman will not be retained unless our yet-to-be-determined coach is sold on his abilities.
Spielman admitted on Tuesday that he has yet to hit on a quarterback and is prepared to continue the search for that special franchise guy. His statements were far from a ringing endorsement of Freeman or Christian Ponder. Freeman can walk, Ponder sounds like a guy who wants out, and Matt Cassel could conceivably opt out of his contract for 2014, which means Spielman is truely headed back to the starting line when it comes to finding his guy.
The Vikings will be armed with plenty of cap space and the eighth overall pick heading into this offseason. If Chicago hangs onto Jay Cutler then the free agency class will really be lacking at the position. If things play out just right, or wrong in this case, an acceptable rookie may not be available when Minnesota is on the clock.
This offseason has all the makings of one where Spielman will be forced to wheel and deal (not that he doesn’t seem to enjoy that) to get the quarterback, or quarterbacks as the case may be, that he wants to staple his career to. I say that because it is true.
It is now Rick Spielman that will be held responsible for any future debacles, and if we have unnamed sources talking to Pelissero at this time next year, then Spielman will probably be headed to Kinkos to make copies of his resume.