We’re a bit late on this, but we’ve finally gotten our hands on the full transcript of Rick Spielman’s press conference from Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. The General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings got his opportunity to take to the podium and answer some questions about the team and how they plan to approach the offseason, specifically the quarterback situation.
Now, as we all know, Spielman has a history of not really saying a whole lot of substance when he speaks to the press. . .we have “Rickspeak” for a reason, after all. But, I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to read what he had to say and read into it whatever they wish. It should make for some interesting discussion, and that’s not a bad thing given the limited topics there are to talk about right now.
So, the following is the transcript of Rick Spielman’s press conference from Wednesday in Indianapolis, courtesy of the folks at NFL Draft Scout, as transcribed by Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Enjoy, everybody!
Just to start off, we’ve had very positive and productive meetings since the season ended. We’ve gotten through our Vikings personnel meetings, we’ve gotten through our draft meetings, initial draft meetings, and also through free agency meetings. Everyone in our building, coaches, scouts, have tremendous focus, tremendous energy on continuing to build the roster we currently have. This week is a critical part of the process. It’s a tremendous opportunity to sit with our own UFAs to see where we’re at with them. I know we’ve had some conversations on the phone before we came down here, but also it’s a critical part of our draft process. As a philosophy, we’re always going to continue to build through the draft, but if there are unique situations in free agency that we think we can address, we will always use that as a supplement. I wanted to mention the Wilf family as well for their tremendous support, the resources that they give us to do our jobs, the stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium, that we play in and as I’m speaking right now they’re moving my office out to Eagan, the TCO Performance Center, and just going through that building I can’t wait for our players to get in there. I can’t wait for any potential free agents to come through and even as we start bringing drafted players through how impressed they’re going to be with that building. I’m sure you want me to address the quarterback situation.
We feeling very strongly moving forward because of all the in-depth knowledge we have on our current three quarterbacks. Also, the practical game knowledge that we have on those guys. We’re always going to be looking at options in all areas. We’ll try to make sure we’re finding the best fit for the Minnesota Vikings, not only on the field from a schematic standpoint, but also with the leadership with Coach Zimmer, the culture that has been established in our locker room. Just to make clear, there have been no decisions made – I know it’s been a thousand reports out there on how we’re going to move forward. We will continue to evolve this process. I’ll go through the meetings this week with the agents when we get back. We’ll circle back around and finalize a game plan as we go forward. Last thing I want to address right off the bat is the Teddy tolling situation. We’ve been in constant contact with the league. This, I want to make clear, will be a league decision. I don’t personally believe with what I know today that his contract will toll. I know the NFL and the league will address the situation relatively here in the near future. The issue can go either way, though. Until the NFL tells us which way the decision is going, it’s not been resolved yet, but they will address that. Teddy’s been a great teammate. Teddy is a great kid, unbelievable representative of our organization. Unbelievable work ethic and attitude on how he came back from such a significant injury. As an organization, I just want to put out that we are always going to look out for the best interest of our players and any time that we can do that, we’re going to do that and that comes down from our ownership down through me and Coach Zimmer. So I’ll go ahead and open it up for any questions.
Near future, by March 12 a decision?
I’ll leave that to the league. I’ll let the league respond to that.
Challenges of signing Teddy when he hasn’t been on the field in a couple years?
I think we have a lot more knowledge of Teddy than anyone else. Our medical department has rehabbed him ever since the surgery was done. We’ve seen him in practice. Our coaches have worked with him. He got a chance to play a couple snaps, I think it was in the Cincinnati game, but we probably have more in-depth knowledge than anyone on where he’s at right now in his current status.
More information you want before making QB decision boil down to numbers?
I think we have a pretty good idea of what we feel, but I also know that a lot of things will go into play in this decision – contracts are definitely a factor in it. The one thing that we always have done is we’ve always planned out our contracts two of three years down the road. I know we were very aggressive last offseason getting Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph done. Our objective, like you said earlier, is to draft well and then keep those players on your roster. We have some significant contracts coming up with some key players, especially on the defensive side, but offensive side as well, so that all goes into play as we go through this decision. And that will continue to evolve up til the start of free agency.
If both guys are healthy, how would you like to split workload with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray?
I would prefer to leave that with Coach Zimmer. I think two different styles of backs. I think Latavius did an unbelievable job for us last year. He led our team in explosive runs last year once Dalvin got hurt. Also, I think we were top or one of the top in third-down and fourth-down-and-1 situations. Also much better success when we were in goal-line situations as well. I know that was an area that we needed to improve on and I think with the combination of him and the combination of our offensive line that we redid last year, that that made a significant difference in our success in those areas.
What are the greatest challenges evaluating receivers in the draft?
I think that position takes some time to develop, just like the corners just because of one, getting on the same page with the quarterback. Two, how precise the routes have to be. Three, the type of coverage that they’re facing, that they haven’t faced in college. I think that’s all part of the process and the evolution of a receiver.
Thielen was undrafted, Diggs taken on third day, how do you characterize what allowed them to succeed?
I think we have a pretty good handle. First, I have to give credit to our scouting staff and the job they do in that area in the third day and even college free agency, especially last year. But I think what myself and Coach Zimmer have established is the traits that we’re looking for, not only on the field, but traits it takes to be a Minnesota Viking off the field and the traits they have to have to fit culturally in our locker room and we’ve been very selective and that’s an important part of the process when we’re interviewing all the kids here at the Combine. We’ll talk about them as we keep going through – is this guy going to fit? I’d rather take a guy that maybe is talented enough to play in the league but maybe a little less talented but he has all those other traits and usually those type of guys you end up having success with.
Your son J.D. at Nebraska had a successful year, what gives?
Geez, I didn’t have a Nebraska (talking point). I had an opportunity to see him play a couple games last year. Fortunately, they play a pretty good schedule so I can kind of see him play and still do the scouting that I do on the weekends. My wife sits in the stands; I sit in the press box, so that’s a little bit of an issue in the house. But I tell her I have very important work to do in those Saturday games. I think Coach Riley and that staff did an unbelievable job developing him because he’s never played receiver before and he redshirted for the year. What he was able to accomplish, but I also give credit to him because the work ethic he has. He’s been around this game his whole entire life at this level so I don’t think it was ever too big for him. And he has to still continually improve. Believe me, when I talk to him, I talk to him as a dad first and then I’ll talk to him as well – you need to pull that tackle; you’re at the half-yard line, you get your rear end in there and score. You should make a better catch when you’re in contested situations. Then I get yelled at by my wife: ‘Be a dad.’ I know he’s very excited being part of Scott Frost’s system, that offensive system. That’s a great hire by Bill Moose and the Nebraska University and we’ll see how it evolves. But I think his skill set should hopefully fit in for what Scott Frost has in mind for him.
Zim never committed to Keenum fully, is he capable of another 10-win season in the NFL?
I thought J.D. got better as the season progressed last year. [Laughing] No, I would say that if we didn’t believe in Case Keenum and what he was able to accomplish – I’ll keep those personnel discussions internally – but Case Keenum came in, led our football team, did a phenomenal job. He has a knack for making plays. He made a lot of big plays for us because of not only his smarts, his leadership, but his mobility as well. I know we’ve had internal discussions with how he fits with some of the things Coach DeFilippo wants to do, so Case, we were very excited about what Case was able to accomplish and Coach Zim, he can address that. But he does a very good job of handling our players and keeping them all on edge so that they perform at their highest level.
How will things change going from Pat Shurmur to John DeFilippo?
The one thing, when we went through this interview process, was that we made such tremendous strides last year on offense. We went from being one of the lowest graded offenses in the league to where we ended up. I think the criteria we were looking for – not only sharp, smart, intelligent – but also can he just come in and implement what we were already doing and add to that instead of a whole rebuild where you have to come in and scrap your offense, all the other coaches have to learn a new language, all the players have to start over from Day 1, learning a new language, a new system. So, during the interview process, Coach DeFilippo explained it that there’s a lot of positives that we did last year on offense. He’s got a very similar background, I think, to Pat Shurmur. So bringing in some new, fresh ideas just to implement what we already have in place I think will pay huge dividends for us.
Shaquem Griffin from UCF a hard evaluation playing with one hand?
Very unique player. I haven’t had an opportunity to meet him yet, but outstanding kid. He’s very exciting to watch on film because he just plays with his heart, with passion, and he gives you everything he has on every snap. I don’t think that should be a factor, just because he’s shown he can be productive at a high level against some high-level competition. I think each team will make that determination, but we think he’s a heck of a football player and that won’t be a factor for us.
Backup quarterback having success in the playoffs influence the way you look at roster building?
I think if you did a study on what actually is a success of a backup quarterback, if your starter goes down during the year, how many backups have been able to come in and at least go .500? In our situation the past couple years, we’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity at that position and we’ve been very aggressive, but we wanted to make sure that that is one area we had enough depth at. We did a lot of things on Case Keenum, a lot of film study with our coaching staff, with Pat, with Kevin Stefanski, and we felt if had to come and play that he would be able to function. I also think when you look at our situation and even Philadelphia’s situation, they have a pretty strong roster. They play very good defense, they have skill guys that can make plays. They’re a pretty good batch of running backs. You’re hoping your roster is strong enough where you don’t have to put everything on that backup quarterback. If he can go in and manage the game as he learns and as you seen with Case and I think Nick Foles, if you seen him play when he first started and how he played against us and how he played in the Super Bowl, I mean it was phenomenal to see how these guys evolved. But those guy in the beginning don’t get the first-team reps. They’re not throwing to the No. 1 receivers or tight ends or skill guys, so I think the more comfort they get the more they play, especially with those guys and the type of character guys they are, it gives them opportunity to have success.
Your evaluation of Latavius Murray and Laquon Treadwell?
Latavius I talked about earlier. He made a significant different on our explosive runs this year, made a significant difference on our conversions on third and fourth downs in short-yardage situations. Made a significant difference in goal line and his ability to get the ball in the end zone. And I think that, along with how we revamped the offensive line, was one of the points of emphasis that we really wanted to improve on last year. Laquon continues to progress. It’s going to be a big year for him. I’m hoping to see that jump this year. I know he does work extremely hard at it. He’s a pleaser. He wants to do good and he’s just got to learn how to relax a little bit and not press so much and just enjoy playing. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You see when he does get an opportunity catch the ball in the games or when he’s targeted, I don’t think he’s dropped the ball but also doesn’t have a lot of targets in the game.
Murray and Cook have a complementary skill set?
They’re two different styles of backs. I think when you have the ability to have different types of backs on your roster, it also gives the defense a little bit more to game plan for. I think the coaching staff can be a little bit more creative on how they use those back in certain situations. I don’t know if you want to have three of the same kind, but if you can have different types of running backs, I think it’s a little more difficult to defend.
How did Riley Reiff do last year?
Excellent. He came in right off the bat. We moved him right over to left tackle. He’s not only a tremendous football players for us, fit everything we wanted culturally, but I think as we went through the OTAs, Coach Zimmer made him a captain and that’s pretty rare for a guy that has never been here. That, I think, reflects on what we felt of him, not only as a football player but what he brought to our football team on a leadership role.