As we all know, the Minnesota Vikings, outside the ownership and direction of Zygi and Mark Wilf, have largely been run by a three-headed committee: Brad Childress, Rick Spielman, and Rob Brzezinski. Unlike most other teams, there is no actual GM (although many see Spielman at times as such, he doesn't actually hold the title or in fact the authority that comes with it), and the three are given their respective positions and powers and expected to work together towards the goal of the betterment of the team.
And of course, there's been a change- Leslie Frazier as the new head coach and the new third of this chimera-style leadership, replacing Brad Childress. Another significant change of note is that Frazier does not have the full power that Childress had over the 53-man roster: most likely a result of some regret on Zygi Wilf's part stemming from the whole Randy Moss fiasco.
While at times this complex manner of running things seemed to work just fine, there were obviously a lot of bumps in the road- and for every 'incident' the public and media were aware of, it's probably safe to say there were three we didn't. These difficulties became especially exacerbated during last season, highlighted in particular again by Mossaggedon.
So, with a positional change in the leadership, but the structure remaining essentially otherwise the same, how will the Vikings fare in the future under this system? Let's explore after the jump.
Let's begin by remembering a fundamental rule of the NFL- championships are built from the top down. Make no bones about it, there's a reason the Redskins under Dan Snyder look nothing like the Steelers under the Ronneys. And while I would give a full vote of confidence behind both Zygi and Mark Wilf, there will be a lot of effects felt from how well the leadership of Frazier-Brzezinski-Spielman works out.
Let's begin by first briefly breaking down each person, regarding their personalities, experience, and jobs in this leadership.
Leslie Frazier- The most ‘unknown' in this group. As Head Coach, he seems to have been given free reign over building the coaching staff, and while they are an untested group, so far things look good. As mentioned above, Frazier does not have the authority over the roster that Childress did. Who exactly does, or if in fact that is now in the hands of the Wilfs, remains unknown. Frazier is also the least experienced in this group regarding his position. His tenure as interim head coach was successful enough that, considering the various disasters and tough situations that were thrown onto his plate, he landed himself the full-time job a day after the season ended. (It's also worth noting that he seemed to have the full confidence of the locker room throughout.) As a former defensive coordinator he's most likely to delegate authority in the offensive department, but again that remains an unknown, as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was an early casualty of coaching staff changes. His personality seems, at least through his media appearances and the words of those around him, to be a ‘tough-but-fair' type who has no problem working with others- a significant change from Childress' renowned ‘authoritarian' style. His role in the leadership again seems to be control over the coaching staff as well as the plays on the field. How much say he will have in player acquisitions is a bit of an unknown, but it would be extremely unreasonable to believe he won't have at least some say in that.
Rick Spielman- Despite recently suffering some embarrassment at the
hands eyes of Scott Studwell, Spielman remains an extremely important part of this leadership. Again, while he is often seen as a de facto GM, his technical title is Vice President of Player Personnel. A former scout, he has largely had the authority and responsibility of acquiring players, both through FA and the draft. This caused some head-butting with former head coach Brad Childress, most notably with the acquisition/ release of Sage Rosenfals and Randy Moss. It should be noted that, with one person in charge of player acquisition and another person in charge of the final roster, these kind of clashes were practically predestined. His role does not seem to have changed with the Childress-Frazier transition, and how much role Frazier will have compared to him in future roster changes remains to be seen. As a side note, Spielman is apparently an absolutely awesome human being- he and his wife have adopted six children.
Rob Brzezinski- Despite being relatively ‘in the shadows' when the triumvirate is discussed, Brzezinski has the quite crucial role of Vice President of Football Operations, in which he has the duty and authority to negotiate contracts for the players and keep the Minnesota Vikings under the salary cap. This means that Leslie Frazier can suggest a player he wants and Rick Spielman can go about getting him- but if Rob Brzezinski and that player/agent can't come to terms, tough luck. While this kind of potential problem hasn't ever manifested itself, there's no denying the possibility, as well as the further chance that it has happened and we simply haven't heard about it. For example- Spielman might have acquired Randy Moss, and Childress might have waived him- but it's entirely possible Brzezinski is the reason Moss was never signed to a long term contract right off the bat regardless. So when we are all discussing the contract situations regarding players such as Sydney Rice, Ray Edwards, Chad Greenway, and Adrian Peterson- keep in mind that at that point, it's in Brzezinski's hands.
So there are your three fearless leaders, in their own nutshells. Again, the big dynamic behind all of this is the fact that for our beloved Vikings to succeed, these three individuals must first be able to successfully work together. The amount of pain suffered by the Vikings during the 2010 season was, at times, partly due to when this relationship broke down. It seemed, by all accounts, that Spielman and Childress were more often engaging in power struggles rather than cooperation. Whether the blame rests largely with Childress, or whether it's just easier to make the former head coach a scapegoat, remains to be seen. In a joint interview Monday during the combine in Indianapolis, Frazier and Spielman seemed to be getting along and did not appear to foresee any problems. A quote from Judd Zulgad on the joint decision making regarding the roster reads:
"Frazier acknowledges that when it comes to the draft, Spielman and his scouts have very good knowledge of players, and thus he wouldn't have a problem going with their recommendation should there be a difference of opinion. Spielman, meanwhile, knows the importance of getting the coaches' input and not forcing a player on them."
Sounds good, but let's keep the perspective that this was a media interview- the two won't go for each other's throats with cameras flashing, at least not this early in the game.
Let's just hope for the sake of our beloved Vikings that this Triumvirate can keep the good vibes flowing behind the scenes as well as in front of the press. Should there be another power struggle again, then we're going to see a repeat of some of the headaches of 2010- and, hopefully, a complete overhaul of this current power structure set up by the Wilfs. This is the second chance the ‘rule by committee' theory is being tried out; if it fails again, there shouldn't be a third.