Is Rick Spielman a football genius or just a guy that worked his way to the GM position of the Minnesota Vikings? To answer that question a little background information is in order.
Spielman played linebacker for Southern Illinois (1983-86) and earned 1st Team All-Gateway Conference honors as a junior. He was not drafted and was invited to training camp with the Chargers in (1987) and Lions (1988) and did not make the roster of a NFL team.
Spielman worked his way into the NFL as a college scout for the Detroit Lions in 1990 for five years. He worked up to the position of pro scouting duties in 1995 and 1996. He moved to the Bears in 1997 until 1999 before being hired by the Dolphins in 2000 as Vice President of Player Personnel. He was promoted to Senior Vice President of football operations and player personnel in 2002 with the Dolphins. He was promoted to General Manager of the Dolphins in 2004 and left the Dolphin organization during the 2005 off-season once Nick Saban was hired.
By all accounts Spielman pays attention to detail and has earned praise and respect throughout the NFL. He knows how to run a personnel department and improved the Dolphins in many ways by adding more scouts and developing a comprehensive college and pro personnel reporting systems.
His tenure with the Dolphins did not end well with personnel decisions that didn't translate into success on the football field. In 2004 the Dolphins ended the season with a 4-12 record. There were a few questionable moves in his year as GM of the Dolphins which involved trades and letting his free agent right tackle Todd Wade leave as a free agent to the Texans without compensation.
Spielman seems to have learned about not trading away draft picks with the Vikings as he did with the Dolphins. The most noteable move was his trade for A.J. Feeeley (2005 second round pick) and Lamar Gordon (2005 third round pick). Both were players that Spielman over paid for in the trades. In 2004 the Jedi Draft Master Bill Belichick talked Spielman into trading a 4th round pick to move up one pick to select Carey while the Pats selected Vince Wilfork (he learned from this move e.g. Brown’s trade).
Spielman worked for ESPN in 2005 before being hired by the Vikings as the Vice President of Player Personnel in May of 2006 as a replacement for Fran Foley. He has overseen five drafts before being promoted to General Manager in January, 2012.
The NFL has changed with the new CBA and trades are becoming rare and free agents can have the franchise tag placed on them. Spielman took part of the blame for the 2013 season which featured the end of the Christian Ponder experiment, the Matt Cassel show, and the failed signing of Josh Freeman five weeks into the season.
To date Spielman has not managed to find a franchise type quarterback. He has traded twice for ISU quarterback Sage Rosenfels and signed him as a free agent a third time. During his tenure with the Dolphins he was involved with signing A.J. Feely, Ray Lucas, and Brian Griese.
As the GM,of the Vikings, Spielman had complete control over the last two drafts.
#23 Sharrif Floyd DT Florida
#25 (free Harvin Trade) Xavier Rhodes CB FSU
#29 (trade from NE) Cordarrelle Patterson WR Tennessee
Round 4 #23 (120) Gerald Hodges OLB Penn State
Round 5 #22 (155) Jeff Locke Punter UCLA
Round 6 #28 (196) Jeff Baca OG UCLA
#7 (213) (from Cards) Michael Mauti ILB Penn State
#8 (214) Travis Bond OG NC (no longer with team)
#23 (229) (from Bucs by Pats) Everett Dawkions FSU (no longer with team)
#4 (from Browns) Matt Kalil OT USC
#29 (from Ravens) Harrison Smith S Notre Dame
Round 3 #3 (66) Josh Robinson CB UCF
Round 4 #23 (118) (from Falcons through Browns) Jarius Wright WR Arkansas
Round 4 #33 (128) Rhett Ellison FB USC
Round 4 #39 (134) (compensatory) Greg Childs WR Arkansas
Round 5 #4 (139) Robert Blanton S Notre Dame
Round 6 #5 (175) (from Browns) Blair Walsh Kicker Georgia
Round 7 #3 (210) Audie Cole ILF NC State
Round 7 #12 (219) (from Lions through Seattle) Trevor Guyton DE Cal (no longer with team)
Two drafts under his belt since assuming full control as the general manager. For the naysayers Spielman has yet to find a franchise quarterback for either of the two teams he has been the GM for. It is a little awkward when to assign accountability for team personnel fully to Spielman but there is little question since the beginning of the 2012 year of who is in control of all roster decisions.
The 2013 team was a disaster and resulted in the majority of the coaching staff being fired. Ponder was a huge disappointment and the defense showed its age and set marks as one of the worst defenses in Viking history. What all fans realize is the team needs a starting caliber quarterback and the defense needs an outright rebuild. Spielman has his own hand picked coaching staff in place now and will over see his third draft in which he has complete control over the decisions, and a pile of money to spend in free agency. He was busy this week cutting failed free agent John Carlson so both sides could move on. 2008 5ht round draft pick Letory Guion was waived from the team. Greg Childs will not have the opportunity to make the team this fall as he was waived too.
The bottom line is, Rick Spielman is the man in charge of making the most important personnel decisions for this team. Spielman has put two drafts together and you can debate the drafts prior to this if you desire. He had a hand in those drafts, the only question is who had final say about a player.
So as the team heads into free agency and then the draft, how confident are you as a Vikings fan that GM, Rick Spielman will get the team its franchise quarterback and rebuild the defense so the team can make a deep run in the playoffs? Spielman went back to the Cassel well with head coach Zimmer putting it in the media that he wanted Cassel to sign with the Vikings. Cassel turned his original two year deal into another two years for 10 million dollars in a well played move.