Say what? Last week, Minnesota Vikings' player personnel director Rick Spielman apparently broke ranks and let slip one of the franchise's best kept secrets. During an interview with a local writer, Spielman acknowledged that the Vikings remain $25 million under the 2007 salary cap and noted that the team was interested in spending wisely rather than just spending. "We're looking for players on the come," Spielman said.
If you've followed the Vikings since the Red McComb's era, you've probably heard this song and dance before. When a high-ranking Vikings' official says that the team is interested in value and not largesse--despite obtaining little of value and retaining considerable largesse (more like $30 million by most estimates)--it's clear that the shell game has returned to the Twin Cities.
In Mike Tice's last season as head coach, the Vikings finished 9-7. Frustrated by what he viewed to be an underperforming team, Wilf fired Tice, declaring that the team was poised to contend under new head coach Brad Childress.
From that 9-7 team, the Vikings lost one meaningful starter--quarterback Daunte Culpepper who played half of the 2005 season before sustaining a season-ending injury. The team finished with a better record using Daunte's replacement, Brad Johnson, than it had amassed with Daunte as the starter in 2005. Enter Brad Childress.
With better talent at several positions and an improved defense, the 2006 Vikings nevertheless floundered. And while some, including the head coach, resorted to the cliched "if a few plays in a few games had gone differently" bit to suggest that the Vikings easily could have gone 10-6 last year rather than 6-10, some were bold enough to point out that, by the same logic, the team just as easily could have been 2-14--or worse.
Wilf and Childress responded to fan discontent by contending that the team's changing philosophy--from whatever Tice's philosophy was to whatever Childress' philosophy is--would require time to produce results on the field. Never mind that the change to Childress was, according to Zygi, "going to pay immediate dividends." Now, Zygi is contending that that time it will take for the Vikings to show improvement will be somewhere in the neighborhood of three years. And Spielman is offering cover by digging for diamonds in the rough.
I love a good football yarn as much as the next guy, but spare me another story about a guy who can run fast and has potential. Matt Jones was to have been the next unstoppable receiver with his blazing speed and great athleticism. Skeptics scoffed at the notion that a lanky college quarterback who'd never played receiver in college could make the transition to all-world receiver. So far, the skeptics have proven correct.
Spielman wants us to believe that the Vikings have outdone even what Matt Jones is still attempting to do. For, instead of finding a college football player who the Vikings hope to convert to a wide receiver, the Vikings have simply found a really fast guy who supposedly is athletic. And he's never played football.
When Spielman says that the team's philosophy is to find guys on the come rather than guys who have established themselves and are requesting their due pay day, what he is really saying is that the Vikings are looking to fill obvious voids on their club in as penny ante a fashion as possible. Whatever it takes to meet the salary floor in 2007 will do.
It's not on the come. It's come on.
Up Next: Three Good Scenarios for the Vikings in Round One of the Draft.