P.J.R.: Spielman's genius as Vikings' GM expands and critics cower
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Rick Spielman's stature with Vikings fans has reached new heights with what has happened since the start of NFL training camps.
The few of us in the local media who criticized the decision to trade Percy Harvin were forced to cower, when "Purr-see'' came down with a hip injury that required surgery and could cost him an entire first season in Seattle.
There still was the decision to put Antoine Winfield on the free-agent market to quibble with, until late last week. That's when Winfield was informed by Seattle coach Pete Carroll that he wasn't going to make the Seahawks' roster.
Winfield, the greatest cornerback in Vikings' history, chose to retire - at least until later, when a contending team loses a cornerback and makes an offer to Antoine that's financially rewarding for a partial season.
The coup de grace was delivered to Spielman's critics over the weekend, when Oakland chose to release punter Chris Kluwe in favor of an undrafted free agent. Again, those of us who figured Kluwe was cut because of his mouth, not his leg, are left bowing to Spielman's genius.
Only one of the four prominent veterans that Spielman sent packing this offseason figures to be on the field when the NFL season starts in the week ahead, and that's Jasper Brinkley, last season's middle linebacker by default.
Brinkley is in Arizona and currently listed as a starting inside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense. Allowing Jasper to take his talents elsewhere isn't much for those of us who questioned Spielman to hang our horns on as the Vikings head into their third season with Spielman fully in charge of personnel.
Spielman came to the Vikings after the 2006 draft. He shared power in the draft with Brad Childress, with the coach having the authority to choose the 53-player roster. Once Childress was fired, Spielman was in charge of the 2011 draft and personnel. It took another year for him to get the title of general manager.
Spielman has drafted 29 players since 2011 and 19 are on the 53-player active roster to open the 2013 season. Here's the list, with overall position in draft.
2011: 12-Christian Ponder, qb. 43-Kyle Rudolph, te. 106-Christian Ballard, dt. 139-Brandon Burton, db. 168-DeMarcus Love, g. 170-Mistral Raymond, db. 172-Brandon Fusco, g. 200-Ross Homan, lb. 215-D'Aundre Reed. 236-Stephen Burton.
Ponder has to become a reason that the Vikings win, rather than the opposite, for this draft to be a plus on Spielman's resume. Rudolph will be productive for a decade. Fusco is already a success as a sixth-rounder. The remainder of this draft isn't much, with Ballard having issues.
2012: 4-Matt Kalil, ot. 29-Harrison Smith, s. 66-Josh Robinson, cb. 118-Jarius Wright, wr. 128-Rhett Ellison, fb. 134-Greg Childs, wr. 139-Robert Blanton, db. 175-Blair Walsh, k. 210-Audie Cole, lb. 219-Trevor Guyton, dt.
Obviously, when a team is bad enough the previous year to get the No. 3 selection (which Spielman turned into Kalil and a draft choice), you're going to get a stud. What's impressive is the rest of the draft looks like a bonanza - Walsh, Smith, Wright, Ellison, maybe Blanton. Only Robinson seems iffy for reaching expectations.
2013: 23-Shariff Floyd, dt. 25-Xavier Rhodes, cb. 29-Cordarrelle Patterson, wr. 120-Gerald Hodges, lb. 155-Jeff Locke, p. 196-Jeff Baca, g. 213-Mike Mauti, lb. 214-Travis Bond, g. 229-Everett Dawkins, dt.
Three No. 1s. The only previous time the Vikings managed that was in 1967, and it helped create the foundation for four Super Bowl appearances.
Note on those 10 Spielman selections that aren't on 53-man roster: Love is serving an NFL suspension, Bond and Dawkins went to the practice squad, Ballard is on the restricted list and Childs and Reed are on an injured list. Only Brandon Burton, Stephen Burton, Homan and Guyton are no more with the Vikings.
Right now, Spielman is "bona fide'' as a genius, and we complainers are cowering in a corner.
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE