Sunday’s 14-13 win against the Detroit Lions ended the Minnesota Vikings 5-10-1 and closed the Metrodome era and Leslie Frazier’s tenure as Minnesota’s coach.
General manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings embark on a pivotal offseason for the franchise with the need to find the next coach, search for a franchise quarterback, likely undergo a major change defensively with several older players unlikely to be back and a change in philosophy quite possible.
With a look to the offseason, here’s our final Vikings’ mailbag of the season:
Question: Will the Vikes bring in a coordinator or college coach, or will they bring in a bigger-name coach? Is it true that Spielman would be opposed to bringing in a coach that wants a strong hand in the draft? — Lindsey Young, via E-mail
Answer: Spielman says he won’t be boxed in during his search and won’t limit himself in any respect to potential candidates, college or pro, offensive or defensive backgrounds. I’m not sure what you consider a "bigger-name coach" but there really aren’t many big names or no-doubt coaching prospects this year. Many of the top candidates will be NFL coordinators.
The few top college coaches — Stanford’s David Shaw, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, maybe Baylor’s Art Briles — have, so far, have said they don’t want to leave their respective programs. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien has already reportedly agreed to fill the vacancy with the Houston Texans.
I foresee Spielman going the route of successful coordinator, with three possible situations. Spielman can go with a coordinator who has head coaching experience (San Diego’s Ken Whisenhunt or Denver’s Jack Del Rio), a coordinator considered an up-and-comer (Seattle’s Dan Quinn, Cincinnati’s Jay Gruden or Denver’s Adam Gase) or a longtime coordinator waiting for his first head-coaching job (Arizona’s Todd Bowles or Cincinnati’s Mike Zimmer).
Spielman’s specialty is scouting and the draft. While he says he will work with the next head coach to determine offensive and defensive philosophies and the draft will be a cooperative effort, Spielman has the final say and the personnel on the team will be chosen by Spielman. I can’t envision him bringing in anyone who wants say in personnel or the draft, or someone who will challenge Spielman’s authority.
Q: What is the reason on shutting down the metrodome it is only 32 years old and Fenway park is 102 and wrigley feild will be 100 so why you could have a longer time with metrodome. — Josh Vaubel, via E-mail
A: This can’t be serious right? Frankly, it’s apples and oranges. The iconic stadiums like Fenway and Wrigley are the rare exceptions to the recent push for next stadiums. Even Fenway and Wrigley have gone through their own renovations. Not to mention, the Metrodome doesn’t have the history of either of those two buildings.
In many respects, the Metrodome was a fine facility for football, though it did need to be replaced when it comes to baseball. However, one can understand the push for a new Vikings’ stadium and the team will only be helped by the state of the art features a new facility will bring.
Q: Is there any realistic way for fans to combine forces and let the Wilfs know, in a very vocal way, how unhappy so many of us are with Spielman? The overwhelming majority of Vikings fans in polls (and every single fan that I personally know) WANT SPIELMAN GONE!!! A couple of good draft picks do not outweigh the debacle that he is largely responsible for. I think Frazier seems like the nicest guy in the world. I feel bad for him, but he needed to go at this point. How in God’s name was Spielman not shown the door along with him? — Random E-mailer
Q: Yeah. Why wasn’t the GM canned. He clearly has a big part to do with losses. He drafted 3 QBs and not one could get the job done. Cassel is a good back up though. — Stephanie J Farenbaugh, via Facebook
Q: When is Spielman getting the boot??? — Pete Wargowsky, via Facebook
Q: How can a GM who has never selected a coach and owners who have now fired 3 coaches expect to make a coaching selection that they won’t get tired of in, say 3 years? — Keith Johnson, via Facebook
A: Spielman did escape the major changes, and for now has the ears of Mark and Zygi Wilf. Spielman has come up with some strong drafts and made a few key trades, but he isn’t without fault, surely. Frazier’s argument Sunday after the game, that the instability at quarterback and lack of overall depth — particularly on the back half of the defense — are issues directly relatable to Spielman.
The Wilfs have entrusted Spielman to choose the next coach and find a franchise quarterback. I’m not sure what any kind of fan movement would do to change that now. Spielman is safe and will get the chance to pick the next coach and quarterback. But Spielman’s safety net is gone too. If things go sour with the next coach, Spielman will be the fall guy and won’t be able to hide behind another coaching change. Spielman will get the ax next time around if the Vikings don’t find consistent success.
Q: Brian! What a year of "what if’s" Now time to wright this ship and get something that will WORK finally in a QB and coaching staff. With reports of avaiable coaches out there and a report on Darren Bevell beinging contacted by the vikes, is there a reunion in the making?! Honestly he would likely be good and would know the team fairly good yet being still players here form when he was a OC. What are your thought or what would be better? — AJ Poulos, SF,SD
A: Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is one of the candidates, and reports state that Minnesota has already asked for permission to interview him. Bevell has a strong background, but I’m not sure if a reunion would happen. Bevell would have to return to the team that let him go — granted though that the coach that fired him, Leslie Frazier, is gone. And Spielman would have to have some belief in Bevell to bring him back. Bevell has gained more acclaim for his work with Seattle’s offense since leaving the Vikings, when he was offensive coordinator under Brad Childress and had quarterback Brett Favre.
Bevell will likely be a head coach someday, and I’m curious about the Seahawks’ coordinators and working in the unique atmosphere created in Seattle by coach Pete Carroll. I’m not sure if this will be Bevell’s year though. There are other candidates out there I think would draw Minnesota’s interest a bit more.
Q: Will Jared Allen be retained ? They also need to get rid of their defensive coordinater — Mark Seitz, via Facebook
A: Jared Allen said he and the Spielman have talked often and are on the same page heading into the offseason when he’ll be a free agent. Spielman didn’t ask Allen to restructure his deal last offseason and the defensive end played this year with a $17 million salary cap hit. I think the understanding is Allen will be gone, and will be looking for a contract bigger than the Vikings can, and should, pay him. Allen said publicly he hasn’t closed out anything heading into free agency, but it would be hard to see Allen, 31, return to Minnesota. He’ll likely have suitors in free agency looking to added him and his still strong pass-rushing skills.
As for defensive coordinator Alan Williams, I don’t foresee Williams returning either. Williams was a curious choice by Leslie Frazier two years ago, and might have been because he had roots in the Cover-2 system that Frazier prefers. All of the team’s assistant coaches and coordinators have been retained, for now. But once a new coach is hired and wants to bring in his own people, I’d guess it’s a near complete overhaul and Williams will be gone.
Q: What is going on with Josh Freeman, was their plan to not give him a chance in hopes of resigning him at a lower price??? 9th pick will leave them with another ponder so I hope Freeman is given an opportunity to compete for the starting job. Or that move alone should mean Spielman goes with Les — Michael McGreevey, via Facebook
Q: Who was really responsible for playing Freeman a whole game, when it was apparent after one quarter he was not ready. — Backyard Gameworks, via Facebook
A: I don’t believe there was any subterfuge when it comes to Josh Freeman, the quarterback Minnesota signed in Week 5, started him in Week 7 and then sat him for the rest of the season. Many people are wondering what happened behind the scenes, and we might not ever get the full picture. But while some people subscribe to conspiracy theories, I’m not sure there’s any big mystery.
Freeman wore out his welcome in Tampa Bay with reported run-ins with the coaching staff and was outright released, costing the Buccaneers big money. The Vikings signed him and got to work with him for 12 weeks. Minnesota’s coaches and, more importantly, Spielman got to see how Freeman worked on an everyday basis. They saw him on the field and he still had accuracy issues. They saw him off the field, in meetings, and got to know him and his work ethic.
In the end, no one saw any reason to go back to Freeman after his 20-of-53 passing debut. Frazier said the quarterback decisions were made as an organization. Spielman said Frazier was responsible for choosing his starting quarterback. The decision to stick with Freeman in the game against the Giants was probably made before the game even began. There’s no other reason to not have stuck with Freeman after he started so poorly in a game that was winnable. There’s a lot of culpability to go around with the Freeman situation, and like I said, we might never know the full story, whether Frazier felt forced to play Freeman to save his job, or whether the organization forced his hand. Everyone can see Freeman wasn’t ready to play, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen the last of Freeman with the Vikings.
I’d like to thank you all for your submissions this season in making our first year of doing a weekly mailbag a success. I hope I was able to help and give some insight from being with the team on a daily basis than you get from daily news stories.