by RC Erstad
Thought is congealing around the notion that Spielman is to blame for this mess, and it’s hard to argue.
But, just as an exercise, let’s attempt to defend him for a moment. One could say that he has done well in the early rounds of the draft: Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, John Sullivan, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Matt Kalil, and Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s had some late-round success, with Brian Robison in the 4th round, mediocre-but-starting guard Brandon Fusco in the 6th, as well as both Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke.
He made a sage move in correctly seeing the wildly talented Jahvid Best as too large of a concussion risk and trading down, getting Toby Gerhart. He bamboozled the Browns into trading up to get Trent Richardson. In fact, the majority of his draft-day trades have turned out favorably.
At a glance, this record as GM looks ok. Certainly not great, but also not worthy of getting sacked. That’s because it leaves out the holy grail of the NFL. Which brings us to…
Spielman’s Management of the Quarterback Position
This is where it all comes apart for Spielman, and not just for the obvious reason.
Left out of the previous compilation of draft picks is Christian Ponder at #12 overall in the 2011 draft. This pick has officially become an unmitigated, undebatable bust. This alone is pretty bad, but misses on quarterbacks happen all the time. This site will even allow for the Ponder miss (though it does put two solid strikes on the board).
What should send Spielman down the road is his overall management of the QB position. At the most crucial position in all of professional sports, bigger than number one starting pitcher, bigger than hockey goalie, hell, even bigger than NBA center in the 1980s, Spielman has operated with no philosophy, no vision, no conviction, and no clue for his entire career.
This gets a little difficult blame-wise because from 2006, when he was hired, until 2011, Spielman operated within the Vikings’ “Triangle of Authority.” Nevertheless, let’s look back at the Spielman quarterback legacy.
In 2007, the Vikings traded a 6th-round draft pick for the horrendously bad Kelly Holcombe, who would go 0-3 as a starter. This trade was likely driven by Childress.
Before the 2008 season, Gus Frerotte was brought to Minnesota for a second tour, originally signed as a backup to Tarvaris Jackson. Frerotte would take over as starter after Jackson was benched after just two games and play well, going 8-3 and helping the Vikings to a playoff berth.
2009: The Vikings would sign Sage Rosenfels to compete with Jackson for the starting spot until Brett Favre arrived.
2010: The Vikings draft Joe Webb as a wide receiver, but then decide he will play quarterback (his collegiate position). After going to the well one too many times and bringing Favre back for his disastrous final season, they trade Rosenfels to the Giants for a 5th round draft pick. In December of 2010, the Vikings sign Rhett Bomar off the Giants practice squad after injuries to Favre and Jackson.
2011: Rhett Bomar is arrested for DWI and released at the end of August. The brief but terrible Donovan McNabb experiment occurs (thought to have been driven mainly by Leslie Frazier), with McNabb not even lasting a season. Sage Rosenfels is signed AGAIN after McNabb’s release.
2012: Spielman takes over as the unquestioned GM. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is signed as a free agent in January. In August, Rosenfels is cut again, as the Vikings decide to go without a veteran quarterback and roll with Ponder, Webb, and MBT.
2013: After three seasons and a playoff start, the Vikings decide that Joe Webb is actually not a quarterback after all, and move him to receiver. They sign Matt Cassel, and then bury him at third string despite a 1-1 record. They then cut Bethel-Thompson to bring in Josh Freeman because apparently Spielman loved him way back in 2009.
It’s really just too much. Boiling it down, he was around for Holcombe, McNabb, and Favre II. He doesn’t get all the blame, but he doesn’t escape with none, either. The best you can say about Frerotte is that he at least didn’t screw things up. Give him all the blame or 10% of it, the Triangle of Authority was a misguided failure.
Moving on to his takeover of the GM position…the first quarterback signed is MBT in January 2012. The surprising release of Rosenfels that fall seemed to signal a strong commitment to Webb and Bethel-Thompson. Then one year later, Webb isn’t even an NFL quarterback, and within half a season MBT is gone, also. The new veteran backup is apparently so bad that he’s deactivated, and the one-time quarterback of the future is looking worse than ever. Meanwhile, the latest new guy Spielman acquired because he thought so highly of him (oh, goody) turned in a performance that was equated to “having watched four hours of war crimes…Too awful to describe in detail.”
Is Spielman just full of self-doubt when it comes to quarterback decisions? Does he think all of these tweaks are upgrades? Every time you think he has shown a commitment to a guy other than Ponder, the guy is gone or buried.
And why use the third quarterback position for crusty veterans (Rosenfels, Cassel)? Once a team gets to its third quarterback, the season is likely toast, anyway…seems like a better idea to use that spot on a young potential diamond in the rough than on a known low-quality commodity.
And lest anyone forget, this is a guy who as Miami’s GM, traded a second-round pick to Philadelphia for third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley. It is regarded by many as the worst trade in Dolphins history.
An NFL GM who can’t find quarterback talent is like a baseball prospect who can’t hit a breaking ball. He may look the part, and he may do everything else wonderfully…hell, you WANT him to be good, but there’s just no way for him to succeed.
With no discernable philosophy and a record of nothing but failure, Rick Spielman cannot be entrusted with the Vikings quarterback position any longer. For that reason alone, he must go.
The Packers Game (Briefly):
–It is becoming clearer that the secondary is not the root of all problems for this defense. As this site has contended all year, fan favorites Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Kevin Williams are non-entities this season. Aaron Rodgers was so comfortable on Sunday night that he appeared to play most of the second half while laughing and sipping a maragarita.
–This site is loathe to pounce on individual players, but Andrew Sendejo was horrible on Sunday night. On a team full of overmatched players, he was the worst. Jordy Nelson’s long catch and run falls squarely on him (Greenway had the man coverage, but the safety has to prevent that from becoming a big play.) He was late on everything. Mistral Raymond is either not fully healthy or really, really bad if this guy is starting ahead of him.
–The last few WWII-Japanese-soldier-on-a-desert-island-style holdout Ponder defenders were smoked out and surrendered after the Jennings route. To recap: The Vikings’ primary receiver on a brilliant play call that would have produced a touchdown came wide open, but Ponder panicked, came off the route too early, and ran for two yards. The PRIMARY RECEIVER. Makes a person wonder how much of the offensive failure can be hung on Musgrave.
–Not going for two with five minutes left when you’re down by 18 is fine, but don’t then attempt an onside kick. You’re either shooting for the moon or you’re not. It was straight out of the Denny Green game management handbook.
- Vikings QBs since 1992: The Expert-level trivia quiz (wiseworldofsports.com)
- Sage Rosenfels Was Tickled By Josh Freeman’s Bad Monday Night Performance (thevikingage.com)