The Minnesota Vikings tumbled to an 8-8 season in 2016 after an impressive 5-0 start. When meeting with local beat reporters on Thursday, general manager Rick Spielman was fired up about not letting that kind of collapse happen again.
“To be honest with you,” Spielman said, “I wake up every morning ticked off that we’re 8-8 because I know that is not acceptable by the standards that we place on ourselves. We have to do everything we can heading into this offseason to address the needs and areas we [can improve].”
“I hate failure with a passion,” Spielman later added.
Sure, an abundance of injuries hit the Vikings like a tsunami in 2016. The offensive line was especially hit hard, as four different players saw playing time at left tackle and the team used many different rotations.
But according to Spielman, injuries are no excuse for last season’s poor performance.
“You can look back at this season, and there could be a million different excuses for what happened,” he said. ‘‘But we get measured on wins and losses, and we were 8-8, and we have to really look at ourselves.”
Entering his sixth season at the helm as general manager, Spielman pointed out he recently concluded a study on evaluating offensive linemen. Many experts and fans alike have been critical of his approach—or lack thereof—when it comes to drafting offensive linemen.
Over Spielman’s career with Minnesota, which dates back to 2006, the Vikings have drafted exactly three offensive linemen in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. His history also includes zero such selections since Minnesota took Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Spielman’s study found some not so groundbreaking information — offensive linemen drafted in earlier rounds have a higher chance of success in the NFL.
“There’s different ways that I had to look back and see, ‘What are we doing right or wrong with this offensive line and how do we get it addressed?’ ” he said. “That was a whole focal point on a lot of the studies and a lot of the analytics that I have been doing since the end of the season.”
It appears as if the wake-up call that was the 2016 season has impacted Spielman’s philosophy toward drafting offensive linemen. With some solid tackle and guard prospects projected to fall right around Minnesota’s top selection in the middle of the second round, this change in philosophy can only be a good thing.
It’s not just the offensive line that needs work, however. Spielman acknowledged there are other holes on the roster in need of his attention. According to Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune, Spielman had a full offseason plan with him during his presser that includes grades for every player, lists of free agents and rankings of draft prospects.
Spielman is certainly getting his homework done this offseason to fix last season’s 8-8 disaster. But, as we all know, homework is just a small step to receiving the grade desired on a report card. The next phase of the offseason is for Spielman to put what he has practiced in his homework to the test. Exam 1 will cover free agency, while Exam 2 will cover the NFL Draft. Will ‘Slick Rick’ improve his grades from a season ago?
Teddy vs. Sam Teddy’s Health
One of the most polarizing stories surrounding the Minnesota Vikings this offseason is the recovery of Teddy Bridgewater after a horrific knee injury derailed his 2016 campaign last preseason. Spielman noted Bridgewater is not performing any football activities yet (dropbacks, passing, etc.) and that there is still no timetable for his recovery.
When asked if were 100 percent sure Bridgewater would ever play again, Spielman couldn’t bring himself to say yes with certainty.
None of Spielman’s remarks present new information pertaining to Bridgewater. The severity of Bridgewater’s injury inherently provides a cloudy recovery timetable and the risk that he may never play football again. Even if Teddy does make a full recovery and is able to suit up again, the mobility he had before the injury likely won’t be the same.
For now and into the foreseeable future, Sam Bradford is Minnesota’s quarterback.
- Spielman addressed Adrian Peterson‘s “significant” $18 million salary, stating that no decision has been made. However, Spielman did add that whatever happens, Peterson “will always be a Minnesota Viking.” As our friend @skolszn on Twitter points out, this could be Spielman’s way of preparing the public for Peterson’s release. Additionally, Spielman offered high praise for the group of running backs in the upcoming draft class.
- Spielman said he expects an announcement from Chad Greenway on his retirement decision before the start of the free agency period. Greenway’s position as starting outside linebacker, whether he decides to retire or not, will likely be toward the top of Spielman’s priorities to address this offseason.
- Spielman mentioned that head coach Mike Zimmer is still blind in his right eye and has another surgery planned for April. That makes 43ish surgeries on Zimmer’s eye in the last six months. Hopefully, that is the last procedure Zimmer needs to endure.
Quotes for this article are courtesy of Matt Vensel’s work on the Minneapolis Star Tribune.