The Minnesota Vikings cleaned house this offseason, turning over most of the coaching staff and doing away with a lot of under-performing veteran players.
New year, new coaches, semi-new-roster…same old Vikings dysfunction.
The surprising thing isn’t that the team’s on-field performance has been spotty – we expected a few hiccups, especially with a rookie QB – but that things are evidently so messed-up in the locker room.
After Sunday’s frustrating home loss to the Lions, Mike Zimmer gave an indication of how dysfunctional things have been behind-the-scenes for the Vikings.
Zimmer talked about players being late for meetings, players being late for rehab work. He said he’s had to fine guys for tardiness, said he’s going to up the fines to the max in order curtail the nonsense.
This isn’t a case of players being distracted by off-field situations or frustrated by on-field failures, it’s flat-out lack of discipline. It’s enough to leave you wondering, what in the level hell is going on with this group?
Clearly, Zimmer is at the end of his rope with these guys. But Mike Zimmer is not the only voice the players should be hearing right now amid all this dysfunction. Zimmer should not be alone in having to deal with these disciplinary issues.
GM Rick Spielman needs to take an active hand in managing this situation. He needs his voice to be heard in that locker room.
Mike Zimmer shouldn’t be the only one bringing the hammer. Spielman, as general manager, is just as responsible for cultivating the proper culture.
If the Vikings’ culture is rotten, Spielman is just as culpable as Zimmer. In fact he is more culpable.
Zimmer has been here less than a year. And Zimmer is not the one who picked most of these players.
Zimmer was not around last year and the years before when Spielman was building this roster, filling it with his guys. And if this team has a lot of undisciplined players who are creating headaches for the coaches? Who picked most of those players?
Who has set the dysfunctional tone over the years with the way they’ve handled various situations?
Who made the call on Chris Cook a few years ago, deciding to keep Cook on the team despite his domestic assault case? Who made the call to keep bringing back Jerome Simpson despite all his troubles?
Who botched Antoine Winfield’s exit from the team? Who was responsible for the Josh Freeman mess?
Who exacerbated the Chris Kluwe situation by joining with Mike Priefer in telling Kluwe to tone down his off-field activities?
The Adrian Peterson situation is on another level, one so severe that ownership has had to get involved, but Spielman’s fingerprints are all over that as well.
Rick Spielman has a lot to answer for as GM. The culture that exists in Minnesota, a culture that apparently is leading to some players thinking they are not required to be on-time to meetings, is Spielman’s responsibility much more than Zimmer’s.
But it’s Mike Zimmer out there answering the questions. Apparently it’s Mike Zimmer dealing with discipline. It’s Zimmer who has to lead the team through all the baloney on the field.
It’s early in the season yet and we don’t know what direction this is going to go, but if it continues going south, someone is going to have to answer for it.
A positional coach like Jeff Davidson, whose offensive line has been struggling mightily, would seem like a prime candidate to get the axe.
But after you get done throwing guys like Davidson under the bus, who is left?
Rick Spielman should realize that if the time comes for a fall guy to be identified, he will be the man with his head on the block.
He is the man who created the culture. He is the man who picked the players who are not only under-performing on the field but can’t even get themselves to meetings on time.
He has been setting the tone for several years now, and that tone is sounding more and more sour with each passing day.
And he doesn’t have Leslie Frazier to blame anymore.
Spielman doesn’t have anyone left to point the finger at if this thing turns into any more of a mess. When the next man has to step up and take his medicine, Spielman will be the one opening wide.
Knowing this, one would hope Spielman would feel compelled to take an active role in dealing with this disciplinary situation. If he’s leaving this all to Zimmer, then he’s not only a weasel, he’s a weasel without any basic sense of self-preservation.
It’s time to strap it on Rick and go down there and deal with some of this mess you created. It’s time to get in somebody’s face. Don’t leave it to Brian Robison and Mike Zimmer.
Clean up your mess Spielman, or Zygi Wilf will be sending someone to help you clean out your desk.