Jim Souhan: Vikings in rebuild mode? Maybe. Are Spielman, Zimmer the right leaders for that? Maybe not.

By Jim Souhan, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Football

MINNEAPOLIS — The question facing the Minnesota Vikings is not so much whether they botched their latest series of trades, but whether the general manager who made them is the right general manager to operate in their wake.

Rick Spielman traded Stefon Diggs because he thought he had no choice, and wound up with a slew of draft choices and an outstanding rookie replacement in Justin Jefferson. That was astute.

Spielman traded a second-round pick and a fifth-rounder to Jacksonville for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in August, and Ngakoue provided underwhelming results as the team started 1-5. He misjudged his team.

On Thursday, Spielman traded Ngakoue to Baltimore for third and fifth-rounders. What the Vikings lost in the two deals: Instead of a high pick in the second round, they will pick at the end of the third round, and they spent money on Ngakoue they will never get back. This was wasteful.

Both deals typify Spielman's tenure. He is willing to roll the dice on exceptional athletes, he is unafraid to make aggressive moves to win now, and he doesn't always accurately judge personalities and systemic fits.

The question is not whether Spielman should have dealt for Ngakoue, or dealt him away. The question is whether he, at 57, and coach Mike Zimmer, at 64, are the right decisionmakers to manage what suddenly looks like a rebuilding project.


The Vikings are 1-5 on merit. They have won two playoff games since 2009. They are nearly three years past the peak of the Spielman/Zimmer era, when they lost by 31 points in the NFC title game.

Spielman and Zimmer have obvious strengths. Spielman has an eye for athletic ability. Zimmer remains a knowledgeable defensive coach.

Both are also responsible for the decisions that have destroyed this season.

They wrongly placed their faith, and much of their discretionary spending, on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who leads the league in interceptions. They judged Cousins' arm talent accurately, but wrongly viewed him as a leader.


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