Are the Vikings a Mickey Mouse operation? You have to wonder what other executives around the league think after a couple of the team’s moves last week. I’m not talking about the big moves. Trading Percy Harvin was a no-brainer after Seattle offered all those picks. Sorry Percy fans but he was never worth the money and he arguably wasn’t worth the headache. The Greg Jennings signing also was a no-brainer. Had to get a legit receiver in there. You’ll never know for sure what Christian Ponder has until you give him competent people to target.
Those big moves aren’t the issue. The issue is a couple of the smaller moves. One isn’t even a move, it’s just the way a situation was handled. The Antoine Winfield situation. Dan Wiederer reported on it last week. Winfield was cut in what is being described as a “short, awkward” conversation with Rick Spielman. Whatever happened in that brief convo, Winfield surely came out of it with his feelings hurt and less inclination to return to the Vikings. And this after the Vikings failed to even offer him a chance to re-do his contract. Very puzzling and arguably classless behavior from Spielman. Treating a guy like that after nine years?
Now maybe that situation didn’t go down quite the way Wiederer’s story protrays. But so far the Vikings have been silent on the matter. They have yet to offer their side of the story and my guess is they will never offer any real clarification. Spielman’s PR people will figure out the right spin and Spielman will go out and say the words and that will be that. Frankly they are probably just hoping that everyone forgets about it. Fans may forget but I don’t think players will. I think it creates a potential image problem for them among players.
Yes you need to be cold-blooded and unsentimental in how you assess your talent. That’s how organizations like Pittsburgh and New England do it and that’s part of how those teams got to be where they are. But you have to show a little humanity in how you deal with the actual people. Or at least a basic level of decency. Spielman’s cold behavior toward Winfield reeks of Brad Childress to me. It reminds me of Chilly cutting Marcus Robinson on Christmas Eve then denigrating his talents in public. Or Chilly punishing Troy Williamson for being late getting back to the team after his grandma’s funeral. You want to run a tight ship but you don’t want to be a tyrannical dickhead. I know Spielman was having a busy day but why couldn’t he take a few minutes out of it to send Winfield off the proper way? It just seems like he doesn’t get it.
Of course I’m only a fan and my opinion on this doesn’t matter. But you know whose opinion does matter? Players. This Winfield story may make guys look twice at the Vikings. Obviously it didn’t scare away Greg Jennings but by the looks of it Jennings didn’t have a lot of options. Let’s say you have a free agent with several teams bidding for him. Maybe the money’s even. Now that guy is going to look for reasons to choose one place or the other and it’s not about money. So he looks at the Vikings and thinks, “Oh they treated Antoine Winfield like crap. Do I want to go there?”
Maybe I’m overreacting. Like I said, it’s possible the Wiederer version of the story is leaving out something vital. Maybe the Vikes will come out with less stink on them when all is known. Maybe it will all turn out to have been a misunderstanding. Maybe Winfield will even come back on a manageable contract. Who knows? There’s a fair amount yet to be cleared up on this story. But there’s another story that I think is more clear-cut and in its own way even more puzzling. This one I don’t think needs a lot of analysis. It’s just flat out a WTF? moment.
It sort of flew under the radar with everything going on last week but a few people noticed it and they were very puzzled. Jerome Simpson as you know was brought back on a one-year contract. That’s not a big deal. The Vikes need receivers and Simpson at least presumably knows the offense and for some reason the coaches just seem to like the guy. The problem isn’t that they brought him back, it’s that for some reason they saw fit to give him a raise. Even though as far as we know there was no market for him whatsoever.
So this is what you have. An organization that preaches fiscal responsibility above all else. That claims to be all about spending money prudently and wisely. That just traded away its best receiver largely because they didn’t want to end up overpaying for him when they finally had to address his contract. And what do they do? They give a guy more money to come back when they absolutely did not have to give him a cent more than what they paid him last year. Jerome Simpson, trust me on this, had no other offers from any team and was going to receive no other offers. He would have been on the street come training camp. The Vikings are literally the only team that sees value in this guy. And they gave him more money why? Just to show their appreciation? Cause he was such a huge factor for them last year? He made so many big plays and was just all-around a terrific guy?
It absolutely makes no sense to give Simpson more money. And the silliness of this move was noted by multiple in-the-know-type people. Tom Pelissero tweeted about it. He couldn’t understand it and neither can I. When you have a player in that position, totally at your mercy, you give him the dead minimum. Did his agent bluff Spielman with some crap about another offer? Was Spielman just feeling in a charitable mood?
For my money, this team looks a little bit Mickey Mouse right now. Spielman looks a little bit in over his head. He doesn’t know how to handle a clear-cut veteran release without turning it into a PR pickle. He gives guys money just for the hell of it after two years of preaching frugality. Go back to last year and you have the John Carlson signing which made no sense for the money. That looked like a case of Spielman reacting to a market that did not exist. And so does the Simpson raise. Does this guy see ghosts too?
Maybe it doesn’t even matter that much in the grand scheme. Maybe only people like me who pay way too much attention even give a crap about this. Fans will ultimately judge Spielman based on wins and losses. If Greg Jennings has a big year people will say Spielman did a great job. They’ll overlook other smaller things that call him into question. But I think evidence is mounting that this guy isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. I’m still annoyed by the Joe Webb thing last year. And Carlson and now Winfield and Simpson. It adds up after awhile. The Vikes just look like a low-rent operation at times. And it starts with the talking haircut at the top.