I’ll give Rick Spielman this: He isn’t afraid to admit a mistake. The move to sign Remi Ayodele on a three year contract worth $9 million last offseason? Spielman told Tom Pelissero it never should’ve happened. “That’s something where we made a mistake,” Spielman told Pelissero at the owner’s meetings in Palm Beach. “And I’ll put that on me making a mistake, as far as making sure that the players that we sign fit the scheme that we’re trying to run.”
Ayodele was brought in to replace Pat Williams at nose tackle but chafed when the Vikings tried to alter his technique. By season’s end the coaches surrendered and let Ayodele play his way, leading to a slight uptick in his production. Despite the late season semi-surge it was obvious Ayodele was never going to fit the Vikings’ system and the decision was ultimately made to release him.
The release would’ve been barely a blip on anyone’s radar screens if not for the whole Bountygate tie in. Ayodele as I don’t need to remind you was one of the main culprits in the Saints’ team-sanctioned plan to injure Brett Favre during the NFC title game. Ayodele’s whole situation with the Vikings became rather awkward, at the very least, after Bountygate went public. Despite calls to cut Ayodele right then and there, the Vikings waited on a decision.
Why not dump him right away? They were likely concerned about depth issues with Fred Evans and Letroy Guion still unsigned. But when the Vikes locked up Evans and Guion, Ayodele became eminently expendable. It was just a coincidence that Ayodele was finally let go on the same day the league announced the first wave of sanctions against the Saints for the bounty scandal. It wasn’t Bountygate that got Ayodele cut, Spielman assures us. It was suckage pure and simple.
Conspiracy theories tied to weird timing aside, there’s no question that cutting Ayodele was the right move. And I like that Spielman was so willing to admit the mistake of signing him in the first place. Spielman was around during the Brad Childress era and surely learned a lesson from Chilly’s stubborn insistence on always blaming the players for everything. The result of Chilly’s blame-the-players approach was, when Chilly himself came under fire, there weren’t many players willing to step up to the plate for him. The world is lonely for guys who think they never do anything wrong.
Spielman will make life a lot easier for himself by showing a willingness to stick his own head on the chopping block over the team’s mistakes. But you know what would be even better? Not making mistakes in the first place. It’s not enough to clear away the bad contracts and ill-fitting players, you have to replace them with players who do fit, on contracts that make sense. So far this offseason the Vikings have shown immense prudence in handing out contracts and seem to have a plan when it comes to identifying players who fit their schemes.
The plan will look like genius if those players end up producing on the field. And if not? Spielman will have a lot more admitting to do. At least until Zygi Wilf fires him.