Since May, 2005 when the Wilf family took ownership of the Minnesota Vikings from Red McCombs, the organization has taken a giant leap forward in terms of how the front office operates. In 2006, after Fran Foley’s short-lived tenure with the team, Rick Spielman was hired as the Vikings’ Vice President of Player Personnel, as the team had begun a period in which they operated under the now infamous “Triangle of Authority”. Joining Spielman as one third of the TOA were Head Coach Brad Childress, and Vice President of Football Operations, Rob Brzezinski. The team operated under this structure until 2012, when they ditched the concept of the TOA, and Spielman was elevated to the position of General Manager. Brzezinski, however, has retained his position all along - although his title has officially changed to Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
In the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and friends are told - after exposing the mythical Wizard as just a man - to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Within the Vikings organization, Brzezinski is the man behind the curtain. And his work with the Vikings salary cap is something every team in the league should pay attention to. He is - for all intents and purposes - the man charged with massaging the numbers in order to best benefit the makeup of the Vikings’ roster. And few people around the NFL in his position have as sterling a reputation as Brzezinski. According to his official Minnesota Vikings bio, Brzezinski “has negotiated contracts during his career totaling more than $1 billion.” That’s billion, with a “B”.
In 2006, he was the man responsible for the “poison pill” clause in the Steve Hutchinson contract that forced Seattle’s hand, and guaranteed that the Vikings would end up with the services of the future Hall-of-Fame Guard. Responding to questions about the Hutchinson contract, Brzezinski stated, “We have a lot of respect for Seattle. This wasn’t about trying to be antagonistic or anything like that. It’s business.” Strictly business, baby. Strictly business.
Brzezinski has the Vikings in an enviable spot in terms of dead money, as well. According to Over The Cap, the Vikings are currently fifth best in the league, with right around $3 million in dead money, mostly due to Jarius Wright’s departure. By contrast, the Buffalo Bills (who have roughly the same amount of cap space as the Vikings) are sitting on a whopping $47 million in dead money.
Perhaps due to the strengths of the Vikings current power structure, Brzezinski was tasked this season with securing the futures of several important players the team has drafted (Hunter, Diggs, Kendricks) and some that the team brought in through Free Agency - Sheldon Richardson, Kendall Wright, and, most notably, new quarterback Kirk Cousins. Again and again over the past few years, Brzezinski has signed players to what are deemed “team friendly” deals. In fact, Cousins’ deal made him - at least temporarily - the highest paid player in the league. And yet, in terms of cap hit, he ranks as the seventh highest overall. Cousins is getting his money, and the Vikings aren’t handicapped by the terms of the deal. This week, Brzezinski secured the services of Stefon Diggs for the next six years to what has already been called - you guessed it - a “team friendly deal”.
Eric Kendricks. Xavier Rhodes. Everson Griffen. Danielle Hunter. Kyle Rudolph. Harrison Smith. Riley Reiff. Adam Thielen. Stefon Diggs. Every player on this list has signed a deal that lets Brzezinski and the rest of the Vikings front office continue to secure a core of players for both the immediate and long-term future of the team.
Football isn’t Brzezinski’s sole focus, however. Brzezinski graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. He and his wife Leah - who holds a doctorate degree in Education - founded Arete Academy in 2014. The academy provides specialized learning opportunities for children who are “twice exceptional” - gifted students who also have learning disabilities. In addition the Brzezinskis also are very involved in adoption causes.
All in all, his masterful work with the Vikings salary cap has put the team in a position to win not just this year, but for several more years. So, by all means pay attention to the man behind the curtain! Let’s just hope there’s a little more magic under his hat, and he can get a deal done with Anthony Barr.
Note: Hey all! I’m Dan Persons - the artist formerly known (or not) on the DN as Hammy1724. I’m a Gemini. I enjoy long walks on the beach. My turn-ons are walk-off victories over the Saints, any Packers loss, and purple Kool-Aid. My turn-offs are watching my favorite team get rid of my favorite player (Moss) not once, but twice. I look forward to bringing you lots of new (and hopefully entertaining) content on the DN in the future! SKOL!