Vikings have ‘every intent’ of retaining Spielman, Zimmer

Published 7:40 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

EAGAN — Minnesota Vikings President Mark Wilf issued a statement of confidence in general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer on Friday, tamping down speculation about their future two days prior to the team’s playoff game.

“We value Mike and Rick’s leadership,” Wilf said, “and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond.”

Wilf, who owns the club with his older brother, Zygi Wilf, has frequently praised the stability and culture of the organization that have been influenced by Spielman in the front office and Zimmer on the field. Both of them are under contract through the 2020 season, after they each had an option on their deal exercised last winter.

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The Vikings (10-6) are eight-point underdogs in Sunday’s wild-card round game at New Orleans, facing a steep challenge against Saints quarterback Drew Brees with two key cornerbacks, Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes, out with injuries.

They are in the postseason for the third time in six years under the 63-year-old Zimmer, but they have won only one playoff game since reaching the NFC championship game after the 2009 season. That was against the Saints in the divisional round after the 2017 season, before a 38-7 loss at Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.

The defense that Zimmer designed and directed to be one of the best in the NFL has slipped a bit this year. In each of the last two seasons, the Vikings have beaten only one team each year that finished with a winning record, the Eagles in both 2018 and 2019.

The Wilfs bought the franchise in 2005, and Spielman was hired in 2006 to head the personnel department. He didn’t become the general manager with full authority over the roster until 2012, one of six times the Vikings have made the playoffs in his 14-year tenure.

Under Spielman, the Vikings have reaped the rewards of many successful drafts, highlighted by middle-round finds like defensive end Danielle Hunter and wide receiver Stefon Diggs. They’ve parlayed undrafted players into standouts, too, like wide receiver Adam Thielen and safety Anthony Harris. The track record under Spielman for top picks and free agents has been more mixed, with first-round misfires like quarterback Christian Ponder and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell still costly in some ways.

The Vikings then went all in on quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2018 with an unprecedented full guarantee of his $84 million, three-year contract, targeting the best available option on the market to try to clear that final hurdle and reach the Super Bowl. How the Vikings fare in the playoffs will go a long way toward determining whether or not Spielman made the right move with Cousins.