When it comes to National Football League General Managers that are on the hot seat in 2014, the name of Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman is probably on the short list. Despite having a lot of outstanding individual talents on the roster, the Vikings have had their struggles over the past couple of seasons. With a new stadium on the horizon and the need for success as great as it has ever been in the Twin Cities, Spielman has to know that he needs to turn things around in a hurry if he wants to continue working for Zygi Wilf and company.
After last night, I'll say this about Spielman. . .if his tenure as General Manager does end sooner than he'd like, it certainly won't be because he didn't do everything in his power to make the Minnesota Vikings better.
The Vikings added two more first round talents on Thursday night in UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That means that, since being given sole power over personnel moves in early 2012, Spielman has drafted seven players in the first round.
- Offensive tackle Matt Kalil (2012, #4 overall)
- Safety Harrison Smith (2012, #29 overall)
- Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (2013, #23 overall)
- Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (2013, #25 overall)
- Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (2013, #29 overall)
- Linebacker Anthony Barr (2014, #9 overall)
- Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (2014, #32 overall)
I would have to assume that's some sort of record, though I haven't gone back and counted all the first round picks or anything.
Frankly, the key to all of this is Bridgewater. We all know that this is a quarterback-driven league, and after missing on Christian Ponder in 2011, Spielman knew that he had to remedy the Vikings' issues at the position. Sure, he could have played it safe and either hoped that Teddy Bridgewater would be there at #40 (which I have serious doubts about, since I think Houston would have taken him at #33) or taken a prospect that he might not have been entirely comfortable with at that spot, such as a Derek Carr or a Jimmy Garoppolo.
But Spielman, who was apparently rebuffed in an trade-up attempt with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in the night, stepped up to the plate once again. Where he could have settled, he chose to attack. And in doing so, he took a guy that spent much of the 2013 college football season atop everyone's draft board, and could be the long-term answer that the Minnesota Vikings haven't had at the quarterback position since a fully-healthy Daunte Culpepper was taking snaps for the purple and gold.
Spielman has been much-maligned in his ability to judge quarterback talent. Ask any fan of the Miami Dolphins, and Rick Spielman is "the guy that once traded a second-round pick for A.J. Feeley." But, you know, that was a decade ago. He also spent time with the Chicago Bears, but I don't think he could be blamed for their quarterback situation, either. Seriously, take a look at the list of Bears' quarterbacks between Jim McMahon and Jay Cutler and tell me that we can put all of that at the feet of Rick Spielman.
The Vikings spent an extensive amount of time with Bridgewater during the pre-draft process. They were clearly comfortable with the idea of moving back up to bring him into the fold in Minnesota. Had Bridgewater come out in 2013, he probably would have been the top pick in last year's draft, and he started the pre-draft process as a top-three selection in this year's draft. And then once the "silly season" got underway, his stock started to fall as people criticized everything from his Pro Day to his decision to wear a glove to his skinny knees.
Yes, "skinny knees." That was actually a phrase that someone used to criticize Teddy Bridgewater. No word on whether or not
Cosmopolitan the scout in question noticed his pointy elbows.
So, armed with an extra selection and an opportunity to move back into the first round with his old friends from Seattle, Spielman took the opportunity and got the quarterback he felt comfortable with. It was a bold move, and yet an unsurprising one based on what we've seen from Rick Spielman over the past couple of years. If it works out, the Vikings will finally have a fully-functioning, high-powered offense that can make defenses pay for loading up to stop Adrian Peterson and will light up scoreboards around the league.
And if it doesn't work out, Spielman. . .and a lot of other folks. . .are going to be looking for employment elsewhere.
To cross our sports analogies here, you can't hit a home run if you don't take the bat off of your shoulder. Sure, Spielman could have accepted a chance at a possible base hit, but he once again decided to swing for the fences instead. We all hope that he's going to connect, but I'm guessing that nobody hopes so more than he does.