Somewhat Quietly, Rick Spielman Viewed as One of NFL’s Top GMs

Rick Spielman
Jun 15, 2021; in Eagen, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman looks on during drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The onus for the Minnesota Vikings to thrive vis-à-vis a deep playoff run in 2021 is tremendous as the pandemic season confirmed the tendency by the team to alternate good years with bad ones.

Here’s an illustration of the even-odd year skullduggery:

 

This statistic is strange and incredible. Glancing at the calendar, though – per this alternating phenomenon – it’s a good time to be alive for a Vikings fan. Odd years seemingly “guarantee” success.

In the event that 2021 is not prosperous, though, chopping-block discussions commence. Head coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins are at the forefront of the make-or-break stakes. Both men possess visible leadership titles, ensuring accountability rests with their performances. To an extent, general manager Rick Spielman is up for adjudication, especially if 2021 isn’t fruitful. However, his job is safer because his body of work has arguably more merit than Zimmer or Cousins’.

And national punditry recognizes it. Followers of the Vikings get so bogged down in every microscopic detail that when anything unfavorable besets the team – it must somehow be Spielman’s doing. That is fair on occasion – notably the drafting of Laquon Treadwell or the inability to find a stable kicker – but not to Spielman’s overall resume.

Not long ago, Matt Miller from The Draft Scout ranked the NFL’s best general managers, and Rick Spielman placed at #7. Based on the naysaying that trickles out of Vikings digital channels, one might speculate that his ranking would be south of #15. But not according to Miller. He said about Spielman:

Rick Spielman doesn’t get enough credit for the team he’s built. Sure, you can say they’ve overpaid for Kirk Cousins, but that move instantly made the team capable of contending in an NFC North that has been home to one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers). Spielman also built a dangerous wide receiver corps (twice), rolled the dice and landed one of the NFL’s best running backs (Dalvin Cook) in Round 2, and has otherwise paired well with head coach Mike Zimmer to keep the defense competitive outside of last season. Spielman may not have a signature move that elevates his status in the eyes of fans, but selecting Justin Jefferson in 2020 could ultimately be that transaction Spielman becomes known for.

Per Miller, Spielman is one notch below the general manager from Tennessee Titans, Jon Robinson, and one spot head of Kansas City Chiefs boss, Brett Veach.

While Zimmer and Cousins stare down all-in treachery for 2021, Spielman should be considered a bit more off-limits. His body of work is vast, evidenced by some of the items mentioned by Miller – and the continued relevance of the Vikings franchise. Indeed, it is frustrating for Minnesota to encounter 7-9 or 8-8 seasons, but the makeup of a Spielman roster has not resulted in a putrid year as of late. This is how teams like the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Pittsburgh Steelers conduct business – bad years are merely mediocre ones. That’s where the Vikings are at under Spielman – for better or worse.

It is unlikely that this 2021 Vikings team flatly stinks, so Zimmer, Cousins, and Spielman will probably don purple into 2022. Yet, if an average or not-good win-loss record is the outcome, Spielman will presumably get the opportunity to “fix it himself” with a new head coach and quarterback. His track record is glowing enough to earn this olive branch.

Intelligently, Spielman has already planted the seeds for the next phase, if needed. The Vikings selected Kellen Mond in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, a quarterback from Texas A&M. That’s Spielman escape hatch if 2021 isn’t stellar.