Over the past 16 years, Rick Spellman has had the biggest hand in drafting the Minnesota roster. Mike Zimmer has managed the team for the past eight seasons.
The Vikings have been shaped by the philosophies and voices of these two leaders for longer than the careers of nearly all of their players, but the double shooting of Spielmann and Zimmer on Monday means the atmosphere and culture around the football operation will undergo a major transformation.
For all the prowess the Vikings had on the field during the reigns of Spelman and Zimmer, who sometimes resided in the top tier of the NFL, the system rarely lasts long without a championship in this fast-paced, results-driven league.
Hearing some of the team’s best players talk about their desires for the new work environment made it clear that change would be welcome. Linebacker Eric Kendricks, drafted into Zimmer’s sophomore year, was the most candid in his assessment when asked how he handled the only NFL coach he’s ever had.
“We put a lot of work together. We’ve done such an amazing job that it’s hard to tell. I felt there were some things left in there in terms of our relationship,” Kendricks said.
Lots of coaches across the league feel the players deserve it. A lot of players across the league feel that coaches can be very aloof.
Regardless of the location of reality, coaches are unlikely to find sustainable success without players believing in their leadership, which requires a certain level of empathy, flexibility, and confidence.
Every NFL player not named Tom Brady is now either Millennial or Generation Z, and coaches wouldn’t resonate with them without at least trying to understand their communication styles and values.
“The best coaches I have are the ones who make me a better person off the field and the people I want to surround myself with and consider as just an ear I can talk to and get things off my chest. Not necessarily football related but just life in general,” Kendricks said, adding later : “Having that voice, no matter how big your role, is important, to listen and be considerate of each other’s feelings. I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go.”
Zimmer has often spoken highly of how hard his players have worked for him, and was particularly fond of his longest-running defensive stars such as Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr, that he has clearly missed out on opportunities to connect even if he is 40 years or more older than most players. With them.
“I think more energy throughout the building could be a good thing,” said Brian O’Neill. It could be something as simple as, ‘Hey, how are you? “In the hallway. We spend so much time together, and the season is so long, those little personal things here or there can make all the difference for a guy or a newbie who’s not really sure he fits in or whether he belongs.”
“Men play their best when they feel good about themselves and their role,” O’Neill added.
Wide receiver Adam Tillen said, “To get the help of others, I think that’s what makes a strong company or a strong family or a strong team. Just everyone working together towards the same goal and being able to have constructive criticism.”
The owners of the Vikings, who met with the players leadership council after the dismissal, were listening.
We want strong leaders. We want people to communicate and collaborate around the building, and from that we’re going to get the right minds, the right offensive minds, the right defensive minds, and the right scouts,” said Mark Wolf, owner and president. “That’s the spirit in which we’re doing this, and that’s our first criteria.”
The search for both positions began, with the General Manager first on the queue. The list of potential hires is even more endless than the head coaches, with AGMs, scouts and other staff executives eager for promotions throughout the league.
Jamal Stephenson, Minnesota’s co-manager of players, would be the most reasonable internal candidate. Experienced and available former General Managers Thomas Dimitrov (Atlanta), Jerry Reese (New York Giants), and Rick Smith (Houston).
Other influencers often cited as viable options for managing the football operation include Morroco Brown (Indianapolis), Ed Dodds (Indianapolis), Rex Hogan (New York Jets), Champ Kelly (Chicago), Trent Kirchner (Seattle), Joe Schoen (Buffaloes), and the list goes on and on. ESPN analyst Louis Redick has interviewed in recent years with multiple teams.
Then there are the most popular candidates for head coaching jobs: Kansas City Offensive Coordinator Eric Penemi, Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Todd Bulls, Buffalo Offensive Coordinator Brian Dabol, Former Miami Head Coach Brian Flores, Green Bay Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Byron Liftwich, Coordinator Dallas offensive lineman Moore, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and former Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson. The Vikings Joint Defense Coordinator Andre Patterson would be the most natural internal candidate the organization should consider.
“It’s going to be a new team next year full of new people, maybe some things will stay the same, some things may be consistent,” Kendricks said. “But it’s a new mindset. We have to have a different strategy this next year in order to get different results. We have to be on the same page. We all have to step up, and we all look in the mirror.”
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