It's got to be tough being Rick Spielman, general manager for our beloved Minnesota Vikings. I'm not talking about the high pressure world of being an NFL GM. That comes with the territory, I get that. No, I mean it must be tough waking up each day knowing your vocabulary is so superior to the average person.
Seriously, if I'm Spielman, I wake up in the morning, go to the mirror, fire myself up by kissing Thunder and Lightning half a dozen times or so:
And then walk into my office like this:
Because I know...FLAT OUT, 100% positively know...I am way smarter than you. At everything. Football, weather patterns of sub-sahara Africa, what in the actual hell a political caucus is, helicopter aerodynamics, the Electoral College--there's a category you can't list that I won't kick your ass in.
Because I am Rick Spielman, General Manager of the NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings.
I am better than you. And my superiority begins with my vocabulary, and my way with words. A clearing of the Spielman throat is a philosophy on which civilizations were founded on, thrived, and took over the world with, man.
So the words he chooses, he chooses carefully. Because an errant phrase by Spielman really isn't, and that's the key to Rickspeak.
What is Rickspeak, you say? Well, Rickspeak is a philosophy*, an ethos**, if you will. It's a collection of words, sentences, and paragraphs that unlock the meaning to life, the origins of the universe, and explains what the hell the TV series Lost actually meant***.
* It's really not a philosophy
** Nope, not an ethos, either.
***Not even Rick Spielman can tell you what the hell Lost was about, man. That was a 60 minute acid trip every week at the end
Rickspeak is like IKEA instructions...with words. So when Rick Spielman speaks into a microphone, it's not something the The Great Unwashed Proletariat (you probably didn't even know that was referring to you...see what I mean?) can digest without assistance*, and that's where we come in. We make the seemingly mystical understandable**, as we have trained our minds and bodies to understand the nuances of the verbal judo that Rick Spielman brings to a press conference.***
*Anyone can understand this, because it's just a guy talking about football. An admittedly smart guy named Spielman, but just a guy.
**We have no ability to bring clarity to anything
***There is no verbal judo. I don't even know what 'verbal judo' means, I just like typing 'verbal judo', 'cuz it sounds cool. Verbal. Judo. See what I mean? Cool as shit, ain't it?
And today, Rick Spielman was in full Rickspeak form while talking at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier today. So as is our wont, what the GM said will be in quotes, and then our interpretation* into his true meaning** will follow. And what is not to be understood will be made clear.***
*And by 'interpretation', I mean 'completely made up jokes'. Because the off season is long, man. So long.
**As far as we know, what he says at face value is the true meaning. Seriously, I'm making all this shit up. All of it.
***Seriously, every word. Made. Up. If you haven't figured that out by now, you're probably more dense than a black hole, anyway, and you are beyond my help. And the fact that you turned to me for help to begin with is terrifying in and of itself.
What Rick Said: I'd like to start by recapping our season last year a little bit. I can't tell you the job that Coach Zimmer has done since coming in a year ago, turning our football team around and then being able to build on that this year. And just the job that they do developing the young guys, the culture that he has set in the locker room. As we go through this process together, his emphasis to our players is ‘team comes first.' And he's done a great job of having players maybe sacrifice individual statistics to contribute what's best for the football team and what's best for us to win football games. The communication between myself, the scouting department, the coaching department, I think has paid dividends over the past couple of years. There's a clear, distinct trait that we're looking for in football players that fits what we're doing from a scheme standpoint, offensively and defensively. There's specific character trait that we're looking for, trying to build that chemistry and what type of locker room that we want with our players down there. Everybody is buying in. And getting the opportunity to meet with a lot of our players after our season ended, just how anxious they were to get back into the building when they're allowed and to get started next year and hopefully be able to build off of what we've been able to do the past two years.
What Rick Meant: We pretty much kicked ass when no one thought we would. We're the Minnesota Vikings, 2015 NFC North Champions. We wake up in the morning and piss excellence, and we're going to lap the field in 2016. Gimme some questions, bitches.
What did it mean to win the NFC North?
What Rick Said: I think that's a reflection of Coach Zimmer's personality, that true grit mentality. Green Bay is a great team. They have a great organization. And for our guys to respond, to go up there in that atmosphere in a primetime game -- in the past, we haven't been good in those situations -- that was just a reflection of 1) the coaching staff and 2) the type of players that we're bringing in and the most important thing: our players buying into what Coach Zimmer is teaching and preaching."
What Rick Meant: Everything, yet nothing. Everything because we went into Lambeau and knocked Green Bay's dick in the dirt when no one...and I mean no one...saw that scenario unfolding like it did at the beginning of the year. Because admittedly, in situations like that in recent years, we had a reputation of pissing all over ourselves. So we took some big steps and won the division. But until we hoist the Lombardi (which we will re-name the Bud Grant trophy), it's a secondary accomplishment. Important? Hell yes...watching Aaron Rodgers slink off the field was awesome, don't get me wrong. But it can get better. And it's gonna get better.
So much better.
Where do things stand with Chad Greenway?
What Rick Said: Chad is out of contract. His role reduced a little bit last year. We talked about guys on our football team that still can play the game and contribute to us winning, and Chad showed that last year even though his role was reduced. But that leadership, you can't put enough emphasis on that, especially when you have a young ball club. And we have older vets like Chad Greenway. Terence Newman, who came in and did a great job for us this year in his role and what we're trying to establish in that locker room. Because those guys are true pro's pros. The other guy that I know probably was disappointing from a statistical standpoint, but what Mike Wallace brought into our locker room and his buy-in and his sacrifice from a standpoint of stats and what was best for the team. And I know Coach Zimmer mentioned it in his post-season press conference, but he was a true professional and everything he was asked to do, he did it to his best. And his leadership also was very key to the success that we had on the field."
What Rick Meant: For an old guy, he looked pretty dam spry housing that Philip Rivers pick, didn't he? But enough about him, I'm going to spend the next couple sentences trying to justify the stupid money we gave Mike Wallace to be a decoy.
Is it Green Bay and Minnesota battling for the NFC North in coming years?
What Rick Said: No, because I think Detroit has a very good football team. And Chicago, I have the utmost respect for what John Fox has done everywhere he has been. I think it's going to be a very competitive division next year. And the one thing, even though we had success and built on that this past year and were able to win the division, we still haven't reached all of our goals. And every year is a new year. You can't predict injuries. You can't predict what's going to happen with players. But we have to take the approach that we are starting over. What we did last year doesn't matter. It's what we're going to do going forward and that's the approach we have to take."
What Rick Meant: Nope. the division now goes through Minnesota. Detroit sucks, man. Chicago? They suck, too. Green Bay? As long as they have Rodgers they're a threat, but all their key players are either a year older, coming off of an injury, or at a Jenny Craig center.
How would losing Calvin Johnson change things with the Lions?
What Rick Said: They still have Stafford, right? He's a very good quarterback and we've got great quarterbacks in this division. And I don't know the situation with Calvin and what will transpire, but he is a great player. Just playing against him throughout his career, he's a future Hall-of-Famer and those guys are few and far between when they come through. Not only, just from looking from the outside in, he was a great player, but he was a great player with how he represented that organization off the field."
What Rick Meant: Detroit has managed to make football such a miserable experience that they had a once in a generation running back retire early, and will now probably have a once in a generation wide receiver retire early. Seriously, the Lions sucked before Megatron, they sucked with Megatron, so I imagine they'll suck without him.
Has Cordarrelle Patterson settled into a Devin Hester-type role?
What Rick Said: I've talked to Cordarrelle. I've talked to his agents. We've had our meetings. Cordarrelle has to come in, I think his mindset is he knows he has to become a better receiver, a little bit more consistent receiver on just the nuances part of the game. There's no question about what type of athlete that he is. There's no question about the explosive playmaking ability he has with the ball in his hand. It's just a matter of if he is going to be able to take that next step or not. I know just what he's been doing this offseason, he's really focusing and honing in on becoming the player he wants to become and we all think he can become."
What Rick Meant: I hope not. Look, Devin Hester is one of the best returners in NFL history, but he kinda sucks as a WR. I didn't burn a first round pick on a kick returner, man. So I put a foot in his ass, I put a foot in his agent's ass, hell I'd even put a foot in his agent's brother's ass if it would motivate him to get his wide receiver shit together.
Do you have an X receiver on the roster?
What Rick Said: We went through that. I won't tell you what we think or not think about our players. But I think we have some talent at the receiver position but we're always going to look, just like at any position, to try to upgrade any way we can. But not only there, but everywhere on the football team."
What Rick Meant: Stefon Diggs gonna ball out in 2016, yo.
What's the benefit to playing a quarterback as a rookie?
What Rick Said: When Teddy played his rookie year, Matt Cassel had gotten hurt and Teddy got kind of thrown in the fire a little bit. But I think it was a great learning experience for him and he is a young quarterback that I think is mature enough to handle that, to get thrown into the fire, because of his work ethic and his mental approach to the game that we felt when we went through the process was further along than some of the other quarterbacks that we interviewed through the process. And I think it's going to pay dividends for us as he continues to move on down the road with his career. We think he's going to be a great quarterback and we're looking forward to him continuing to progress."
What Rick Meant: Do you get better by doing, or by watching? Let me ask it another way...is it better to watch porn, or do the deed? Exactly.
Can you still take time to develop quarterbacks?
What Rick Said: I think it's depending on the system, depending on the coaching staff and what their philosophies are. There are plenty of ways to do it. There's no right way or wrong way. I think it's based on that team and that individual that they do draft whether they're ready or not or what approach you're going to take with a young, potentially franchise quarterback."
What Rick Meant: Ask Cleveland, they seem to draft a QB in the first round every two years. On second thought, don't ask them. They don't know dick about developing quarterbacks. We do, though. Teddy gonna be fierce.
Why is it so hard to evaluate quarterbacks?
What Rick Said: A lot of it has to do with, you can see the stats and what they're doing and you can see the physical ability, their arm strength, their ability to move in the pocket with their athletic traits. I think that's one position where you really have to try to hone in on the mental part of it, how they perform in stress situations in a game. Third downs. Two-minute. Come-from-behind victories. How do they respond in those situations? There are guys that I've interviewed, and I think this is my 25th combine, that come into our room and you sit there and listen to them speak and it's like listening to an offensive coordinator. They can get up there and draw on the board and everything you want to do and boy is this guy sharp. Now can he translate that and make those same type of decisions and those same type of reads in the two and a half seconds he has to get rid of the ball?"
What Rick Meant: Look, it's like when you go out drinking with your buddies. When you first get to a bar, you scan the scenery and you're like 'nope, going home alone tonight', and you're cool with that. But if you don't have a franchise QB on your team, it's like you're the only single guy in the group. So your buddies, they're not shopping, they're not kicking the tires. And as the night goes on, and you have a few more drinks, you think 'man, I need a franchise quarterback because all my buddies have one'. So you look around again, and that gal that squeezed 275 pounds into a 125 pound outfit and masked it with a 55 gallon drum of some kind of fucked up grandma smelling perfume--hey, all of a sudden those are traits you think are things you can work with. 'I can buy her new clothes' is the same as 'we can work on mechanics once we get him to the first OTA'. 'I can get her new perfume' translates to 'why yes, a spread QB with a noodle arm will EASILY transition into a 7 step, deep passing attack offense.'
Now it's like 3 in the morning, and you're on the clock, man. YOU HAVE TO PICK SOMETHING AND TELL YOURSELF IT WILL BE OKAY IN THE MORNING. Your buddies are kind of laughing at you, if they're even still there. They probably went home hours ago, so now you're not only in a state of mild panic, you've got no one left to tell you THIS IS A BAD IDEA. So you pull the trigger, and live with the consequences. And when your buddy is driving you home from the free clinic because gonorrhea shots there are cheaper and you can use a fake name and pay in cash, you've got no one to blame but yourself, my man. No one but yourself.
But it'll take years to get that goddamn perfume smell out of your pillow. Years.
Why have you traded back into the first round so often?
What Rick Said: One is having enough draft picks to give us the flexibility to do that. Two, when I took over as the general manager I wanted to build this roster through the draft. And those first three years, I think we were able to get seven [first-round] draft picks. And if we're doing our jobs correctly, hopefully those are going to be your building blocks for the future. And that gave us the building blocks of us continuing hopefully on the path that we're going. And now we can just continue to layer on what we've been able to build. I also believe that if you're going to pay players, the ones you know the best are your own. So when their opportunity comes up that they are going to be an unrestricted free agent, we've been very aggressive about trying to hit them a year ahead of time and keep that continuity and keep those players that came up through our system and we developed."
What Rick Said: Because Cleveland is stupid. And gullible. So stupid and gullible. Stullible.
Another question about trading back into the first round:
What Rick Said: Every year it was a little different. Some years opportunities presented itself where we were able to move back. I think when we were pretty aggressive moving up for a couple years, Harrison Smith was one. I think Teddy was one. When those players we feel very strongly about where we think they can be potential unique players for us and building blocks for our future, and maybe having a sense that maybe where you're picking -- and we were higher up in the second -- that they're probably not going to get to you there. So go ahead and be aggressive and go get the player that you covet."
What Rick Meant: Did I stutter? Cleveland is dumber than Kanye West's Twitter feed.
Are you thinking about life after Adrian Peterson or is that too far off?
What Rick Said: Running back, you're one injury away. We'll eventually get down there. I think Adrian is still a very productive running back in this league. I mean, he won the rushing title again this year and it's amazing the stamina and the physical specimen that he still is. But at some point, everybody has to retire and I don't know when that point is [for him]. Adrian may defy the odds and play until he is 50. I don't know. But we're very excited about some of the young guys. Matt Asiata came in and has always done a good job in his role. And we drafted Jerick McKinnon, who when he has an opportunity to get the ball in his hands, he shows that he can be a very explosive playmaker as well. So when you're building a roster, regardless of whether you have an Adrian Peterson or not, you've always got to anticipate the potential disaster of a player going down because of injury and are you still going to be an effective football team even if he is not there."
What Rick Meant: Yes. Yes I am. I only throw out the 'he'll play until he's 50' line because I'm pretty sure either Jimmy Haslam or Jerry Jones will believe me, and I might get some choice picks from them in a trade.
What was your evaluation of Stefon Diggs?
What Rick Said: Young receiver. Very talented athlete. I think the biggest thing on him, and we had a discussion earlier today with some of the beat writers, big receivers versus small receivers. I don't look at it maybe like that. I look at catching radius and length. Sometimes he's not the biggest receiver from a height standpoint but his catching ability and ability to make plays, he makes plays like a big receiver. He didn't get on the field early in the season but when we had some injuries and he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. And it started in the Denver game. We were pretty lucky or fortunate that we were able to find a guy like that in the fifth round."
What Rick Meant: Stud. 100% stud.
What was your evaluation of Brian Robison?
What Rick Said: Brian played we thought very well for us. I think he still has a lot of play in him. How his role increases or decreases, that will be determined as we go through training camp and this offseason. But he still is not only a valuable football player for us, but extremely valuable from a leadership standpoint."
What Rick Meant: Brian Robison is awesome. Danielle Hunter might be more awesome, though. We're gonna have a lot of awesome on that defensive line in 2016. Unless you're an opposing quarterback. then we're going to be a freaking terrorist organization and blow you the hell up.
See you in Mankato.