Rick Spielman is known as a wizard at playing the draft, but none of that matters until his team wins a championship.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman once owned the Cleveland Browns in a draft day trade. In 2012, Spielman swung a deal to move down one spot from #3 to #4, got three picks from Cleveland and still managed to draft the player he wanted all along, left tackle Matt Kalil.
And that #3 pick the Browns just had to have? They used it on the legendary Trent Richardson.
With that one move, Spielman developed a reputation for being a wizard at working the phones on draft day. Since then Spielman has built upon that reputation by executing a series of seemingly deft maneuvers, wheeling and dealing his way to extra picks, occasionally gambling on a trade-up and basically owning everyone.
You know, as long as you ignore that one time Bill Belichick ate his lunch by stealing multiple picks so the Vikings could move up into the first and draft the legendary Cordarrelle Patterson.
But let’s not be unfair to Spielman just based on that one trade that didn’t work out in the long-run. At the time I thought it was a gutsy move and in retrospect I still don’t terribly mind that the Vikings took a shot there. I wish Patterson had turned out to be a better player, but you can’t win them all.
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The point here is simple: Every GM has a different draft philosophy. Some believe in staying put. Some believe in moving around. Some believe you never trade up, only down. Some believe a trade-up is okay if the situation is right.
Which draft philosophy is the best one? The one that makes the GM look smart at the time, or the one that leads to championships?
I wonder how many failed GMs have seemed momentarily like geniuses because they pulled off a couple trades that happened to work out in their favor in the short-term?
Look, I get it. It’s fun to believe that Spielman is some kind of mad wizard of playing the draft. It’s fun to believe that the Vikings are winning during those three days in April (or May or whenever the draft happens to fall in a given year).
You know what’s even more fun? Winning that one big game in February. The one they actually give you a trophy for winning.
So pardon me if I’m a bit hesitant to jump on the “Rick Spielman, Draft Genius” bandwagon. The Vikings have won how many championships as a result of Spielman’s wheeling-and-dealing?
Tonight and for the next couple days, we’re going to hear more about how great Spielman is at working the phones. We’re going to hear about how many good picks the Vikings have made over the past few years. We’re going to hear about the Vikings’ “retention rate” of draft picks.
You know what we won’t hear about? All the titles they’ve won since Rick Spielman started running personnel.
I’m not here trying to slam Spielman or say that his reputation is entirely unwarranted. I’m just saying, talk all you want about how great Spielman is at playing the draft or how smart his philosophy is, but excuse me if I don’t jump up and down quite yet.
The jumping up and down, I’ll save that for when Spielman is standing on the platform with Zygi Wilf, Mike Zimmer and Teddy Bridgewater and the confetti falling all around, getting the trophy and a tie from Jim Nantz.