The season is winding down, but our Playbook series, courtesy of the folks at GMC, is still going strong. This week, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk has a new question for us.
At the end of the day, every GM has the same goal: win a championship. But when you’re Professional Grade, it takes vision to build a path toward that goal. Look back at all the moves your front office made this year, and give them a grade. Is your team on the right path?
Well, of all the questions that Faulk has asked us this year, this question might be the easiest. There is absolutely, positively no question that this team is on the right path.
The Vikings' front office has had a pretty good year, all things considered. They got things off to a nice start by hiring Mike Zimmer to be the team's ninth head coach after the firing of Leslie Frazier. As someone who had waited for years to get his opportunity, Zimmer finally got it with the Vikings, and has proven to be just the sort of coach this team needs. He also smartly brought in Norv Turner to be his offensive coordinator in anticipation of the team bringing in a young quarterback to develop.
In terms of personnel, the Vikings started the off-season by giving defensive end Everson Griffen "too damn much money," according to numerous talking heads. Thanks to 20/20 hindsight, we know that Rick Spielman and company made the right call. They also signed defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson, both of whom have become very solid parts of the Vikings' defensive line rotation. We can overlook the fact that they were going to waste another year on Jerome Simpson again, because there are way more positives than negatives here.
Then we came to the 2014 NFL Draft, where Spielman was at it again. He picked up an extra draft pick from the Cleveland Browns to move down one spot and draft UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. He then packaged a couple of selections to move back up to the final selection of the first round and snag Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That was key, not only because there was absolutely no chance that Bridgewater was going to get to the Vikings' second-round pick, but the team now has the option of a fifth year on Bridgewater's contract in the future.
The Vikings picked up several other nice pieces in the draft, including running back Jerick McKinnon (the team's leading rusher), defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (who has started a couple of games in place of Sharrif Floyd), and defensive backs Jabari Price and Antone Exum.
The team even made a nice move in-season, as they swiped wide receiver Charles Johnson off of the Cleveland Browns' practice squad. Johnson has developed into, arguably, the team's best receiver this season, considering the fact that he didn't actually suit up for the Vikings until Week 5.
We know what's happened with the whole Adrian Peterson situation this year. . .but seriously, if someone had told you at the start of the year that Peterson would only play one game, would you have put the Vikings as having a chance to get to 8-8 with two games left in the season? I know I certainly wouldn't have. But that's just another testament to the way this team has rallied this season. When you take a look at this team, particularly the defense, there is a lot to be excited about.
The following is a list of the ages of some of the Vikings' primary contributors when they hit Mankato for training camp in August:
Teddy Bridgewater - 22
Anthony Barr - 23
Jerick McKinnon - 23
Sharrif Floyd - 24
Cordarrelle Patterson - 24
Xavier Rhodes - 25
Kyle Rudolph - 25
Linval Joseph - 26
Matt Kalil - 26
Harrison Smith - 26
Brandon Fusco - 27
Everson Griffen - 27
This is a very young, and very talented football team. Injuries have taken their toll this year, but once the Vikings get those guys back and get another run at free agency and the NFL Draft, they're just going to get younger, better, and more talented. They will also be in a more familiar scheme on both offense and defense going into next season, which can only help them.
If we want to give the team a letter grade based on their moves this season, I'd be hard pressed to give them anything but an A, given the circumstances this team has found themselves under. The Minnesota Vikings, without a doubt, are on the right path. No reasonable, logically thinking football fan can really argue otherwise.