What will 2012 bring for the Minnesota Vikings? Progress, maybe a few more wins, or even the inconceivable playoffs!? Wait, what? Playoffs? In this post I will attempt to provide a throughly breakdown of what to expect of the Minnesota Vikings this year and what will ultimately be the final record.
Warning, this may be too lengthy of a post for some.
I like to think that every organization is ran in a pyramid type chart. You know, like the food chain? At the top is Lions and Sharks and at the bottom is insects and seaweeds. With that being said, this breakdown will be the same way. So lets get to the chase and find out what will be of our beloved purple.
At the top of this pyramid could be the single biggest reason the team succeeds or fails. So who sits atop of the mountain?
The owner: Zygi Wilf
Zygi Wilf is a very successful man, even before owning the Vikings franchise. That's an obvious statement, being that he was even able to purchase the team. Unlike most owners throughout the NFL, Zygi's ego could be considered one of the best when it comes to listening to someone suggesting how the team should be ran. Even if it means going 3-13 for him to find out. The TOA just wasn't going to cut it in today's NFL. There should always be a pyramid-organizational structure in a corporate, in my opinion, and even if it is more of a triangle, that structure must have common techniques from other clubs in the NFL that run top class winning franchises. Since 2006, the TOA has been inconsistent at best and consisted mostly of quick fix solutions. Sure the Vikings had 3 winning seasons, but a truly inept structure would have provided numerous years of at least being competitive and middle of the pack in the NFL. (Looking at the Patriots mostly.) Although there are several ways to build a winning NFL franchise, the owner could be the most vital into determining that. With this being stated, I would like to share an interesting quote.
As television and other media helped to popularize the game–and make it into a huge industry–the question of "Who is in charge?" became less important than "Who is in charge of what?"
Now that Zygi has decided to provide a more stable structure, responsibility and blame will be distributed accordingly to the correct people in the rest of the pyramid. Now, us fans and analysts can make an appropriate decision on who screwed up either draft picks, the handling of players or whatever it may be.
Zygi's responsibility as an owner and top dog is to be the main person to put his team in the best situation to win. How can he put the team in a winning situation? Well, Zygi had to make a difficult decision on who to anoint GM for this team. How'd he fare in that aspect? In my outlook, not all that well. Sure, there was rumors of Zygi contacting Bill Cowher a few years ago to come in as a head coach, but it didn't happen and that was pure speculation. Instead, he took the easy road to give Rick Spielman the job, without bringing in others to see if their qualifications, credentials, track record and drive would be of higher quality then what Spielman would've brought. I for one would've had zero problems with this move, IF Zygi had at least brought in one or two other candidates. Although I'm not a fan of this move, the Vikings seem to be set and pretty good at the Owner spot. This is very encouraging for not only the future, but the overall outlook of the 2012 season.
Two other things to note of a good owner, is fighting for the team and opening up the pocket books to buy talent. That was clearly the case with Zygi and his raising of what he had previously proposed to spend on the stadium, and spending money on likes of Brett Favre, Bernard Berrian (yes he was once considered talented) and Hutchison. This point could be argued with the spending of this past offseason, but who wanted to come to Minnesota anyways? Lets be honest. Also, this man is bringing Minnesota a new FREAKING stadium. Woohoo! (Of course, not without the help of Minnesotans and the children.)
Ok, so the Vikings have one bright spot in the organization and seem to be set in ownership to be winners in 2012 and beyond. What's the next spot in the pyramid?
GM - Rick Spielman
Please don't explode. I know for some, this spot seems really, really in a bad shape. But lets go a little more in depth to find out for sure if this man can help this team out this year first, OK? Good.
This position of power is explained in the quotes below. GM duties include:
It is the duty of any general manager in professional sports to manage the staff, and this includes negotiating contracts. This task is of particular importance in the NFL because the league has a salary cap for its teams. This means that regardless of a player's value to the organization, the general manager has a limited amount of money to pay him. Determining how much of the salary cap to spend on each player is a near-constant concern for an NFL general manager.
Recruiting new talent is one of the most difficult tasks an NFL general manager faces, simply because the process is unpredictable and can take years to come to fruition. Every year thousands of college athletes attract the attention of NFL scouts. This is different from, say, the NBA, in which no more than a few hundred players are scouted. The NFL general manager, along with his staff, must decide which prospects the team should select in the annual April draft. It can be a crapshoot: Many top-10 draft picks go nowhere, while others become stars. Selecting the right players is critical to building a franchise.
Trades and Free Agency
NFL general mangers also collect talent by making trades and signing free agents--players whose contracts with their previous teams have expired. Because of the intensity of play in the NFL, the average shelf life of a player is considerably shorter than those in less physical sports such as baseball and basketball. Many players are traded away before they reach their prime, while others prove injury-prone and wind up being near useless to their new team. Signing free agents can be risky for similar reasons. The unknown of how a player will perform with a new team, along with the issue of salary-cap space, amplify the importance of the personnel decisions made by an NFL general manager.
Working With the Head Coach
The general manager in any pro sport must deal with the team's coaching staff, although things can get more complicated in the NFL because of the number of coaches per team. There is the head coach, of course, but beneath him are dozens of assistants. It is not feasible for the general manager to maintain close relationships with all of the assistant coaches, making it essential he work amiably and intimately with the head coach. Although the general manager has more authority, it is the head coach whom players generally look up to and who is most often in the public spotlight. This can create tension between a coach and general manager and has caused instability for some franchises.
So to sum this role up, the GM basically is the most responsible for who ends up as players on this team. It's important to note from the quote above, that GM's should trade AWAY veterans before a player hits or is at the end of his prime. That to me is the single most important thing of successful teams. Looking at Spielman's tenure in the NFL, i will provide block-quotes of important tibids to give you a better feel of how your opinion on Spielman should be.
Career in scouting
Spielman began his NFL career as a scout with Detroit in 1990 and worked with the club in college scouting for five seasons before adding pro scouting duties in 1995 and 1996. He moved to Director of Pro Personnel for the Bears from 1997-99 before joining the Dolphins in 2000 as Vice President of Player Personnel. He was promoted in 2002 to Senior Vice President-Football Operations/Player Personnel and eventually General Manager in 2004. Spielman left the Dolphins during the 2005 off-season.
So throughout Spielman's entire time in the NFL, he has exactly One year's experience as a general manager. This is why I was disappointed in Zygi's failure to look elsewhere to bring in more experienced or more polished candidates to take control of this very difficult job. It also is ironic that the Vikings did the same exact thing that the Dolphins did, and promoted Rick Spielman to GM without much competition from other candidates. I for one don't know what to expect from Spielman, but judging his prior GM duty, the Vikings and their fans have reason to doubt or even worry of if this team will bring in the appropriate players to help this team win. On top of that, Spielman didn't have the luxury this year of brining in a head coach of his preference for the Vikings.
Lets take a look a bit more at the 2004 Miami Dolphin team that Spielman put together.
In 2004, the Miami Dolphins finished the season 4-12. This was after a pretty good 10-6 year in 2003.
The '04 Dolphins draft looked as such:
|1||19(19)||Vernon Carey||OT||Miami (FL)|
|4||6(102)||Will Poole||CB||Southern Cal|
Just looking at the picks that Spielman had to work with, one could conclude that each pick would be extra critical. Only Vernon Carey fared to have a decent if not good career. Rex Hadnot is currently with the Chargers after being bounced around from team to team. Derrick Pope had a very short stint with the Vikings after Spieman came over
Being that GM is VERY important to a team's success, the Miami Dolphins felt that Speilman destroyed a good team and put them in a dumpfire, so they fired him and moved on. Not encouraging at all, right?
Well lets look at what has Spielman has done for the Vikings so far as GM.
With a complete age turn around, Spielman and the staff was very determined to get this team not only young, but talent .
With seemingly a plethora of holes on this roster, the Vikings and Spielman had their word cut out for them. Coming into this season, the Vikings Biggest hole were O-Line, Secondary, WR, and DT, and depth.
How did Spielman do in taking care of some of those issues? We all know that realistically ALL the holes on this team wouldn't be taken care of in one offseason.
With the 3rd pick in the 2012 draft, the Vikings traded back one spot and picked up an extra pick and drafted Matt Kalil. Some considered Kalil as the best LT since Jake Long. If all goes well, this should secure at least one weakness of last year on the O-Line. I said at least one, because I believe the selection somewhat sured up two spots on the O-line. Well, at least compared to last year. Charlie Johnson can now move to LG and he's expected to at least play as well as Hutchinson did for this team last year. To put it, he's serviceable for now. The next two spots of weakness on the O-Line is RG and RT. Mostly RG. I believe, that being it's Phil Loadholt's contract year, he will excel or at least play better. RG should really be considered the only weakness on the O-Line at this point, and compared to last year, I think Spielman get mad props for bettering this weakness.
The DB position was addressed both in the draft, and free agency. With the extra pick the Vikings got from the Browns, the Vikings then moved back up in the draft to select Harrison Smith. In all regards, the talent level after Smith at the safety position, greatly dropped. Getting a late first/early second round safety talent should prove to be an excellent choice for this team moving forward. Not only did the Vikings get Harrison, but they also drafted the speedster Josh Robison to add depth the DB's. Again, being that depth was a big issue last year for the Vikings in this area, this also should be considered a positive move into the right direction. Although I was raved by these two selections, Spielman threw in a head scratcher when he selected Blanton. Even if this was a depth/developmental move, I think there was better talent on the board at the time. I guess with every few good moves the Vikings make, they also have to throw in a crazy one, eh? The Vikings also added a decent player in Chris Carr into the mix. All in all, the secondary overall should be marginally better than last year. After all, how can they get worst?
Like the Secondary, the Wideout position was addressed both in free agency. The Vikings drafted two good talents in Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Also, the Vikings brought in the best inconsistent wideout on the market in Jerome Simpson. Now that Childs has gone down, this area of weakness will somewhat still look the same as last year. Hopefully, someone else other than Percy can step up. Although the Vikings brought in some good talent at this position, they could've done better. Say perhaps, Pierre Garcon better. Yeah Zygi, open up those pockets wider my brother!
At the DT spot, yeah I feel the Vikings are screwed. Spielman and the Vikings seem to completely think that this position isn't important. Even though I like this draft overall, the Vikings should've found a DT to pair with Williams way longer than they did. The depth at the position is very slim, and this will be the Vikings biggest weakness heading into the 2012 in my outlook.
As for depth, Spielman has done an ok job. I really think we can't afford injuries though. Crossing my fingers to a healthy season. The overall job Spielman has done this offseason could be considered above-average for the overall 2012 outlook. He at least displays a the ability to recognize glaring weaknesses and filling those weaknesses with some talent, for the most part.
So recalling what we've covered so far, the Vikings have a good owner and a very big Question mark at the GM spot. At this point and after this offseason, I would say Spielman is an average GM so far.
Going even further down the pyramid, the next spot is filled by Mr. Leslie Frazier.
Head Coach - Leslie Frazier
Ahh, the man who most people feel is the most responsible for the Vikings 3-13 season last year; although I blame the entire TOA the most. Lets face it. Leslie inherited a crap old team with little talent. Where I put the most blame on Leslie is for not knowing that he had a crap old team with little talent. The, dare I say it, "rebuilding" year should have taken place LAST year, therefore the Vikings would've been a year closer to having a rebuilt team this year. Not only do I put blame on Leslie for that, I also put blame on him, or the TOA, for bringing in very inexperienced coaches at key spots, such as D Coordinator and O Coordinator. Although I'm more patient on waiting to see what Musgrave can do to this offense, I was utterly disgusted at other Coaching positions. This year, Leslie has seem to at least changed one of the two reasons I put the most blame on him last year. At least he has recognized that this team needs some rebuilding, but I'm not so sure if he knows how to assign coordinators just yet. We'll just have to see. To date, Frazier at least has the respect of his players. Thats one good sign, but ultimately wins will gain or lose him the most respect as a head coach. All things considered, Frazier hasn't done much of anything special to note to encourage an entire fan base that he has what it takes to bring the best out of players on this team.
So far, we have a good owner, a question mark/ average GM, and an even bigger question mark at head coach.
Now, to get to the Quick Hits of the post. The next spot on the pyramid list is:
GM and the Head Coach is very important, but it's up to the players to actually play to win.
The single biggest Player who will decide the Vikings outcome in 2012 is Christian Ponder.
Bold prediction: Christian Ponder will have a better season than every QB in his class last year.
Realistic Prediction: Ponder will show improvement in areas he was weak in last year, and ultimately ends up with a pretty good season for a 2nd year QB.
IF Christian Ponder could reach the level of my Bold prediction, the Vikings should win anywhere between 7-10 games.
IF Christian reaches the level of my realistic prediction, the Vikings will only win between 5-6 games.
Anything under 5 wins is unacceptable next year and the Vikings should either:
Get rid of Spielman
Get rid of Frazier
or get rid of Both.
My final prediction: 6-10 with a sweep on the Lions, but two losses against the Bears and Packers.