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Updated: October 18th, 2013 4:29pm
Zulgad: Privately, Rick Spielman has to be disappointed in Year Two

Zulgad: Privately, Rick Spielman has to be disappointed in Year Two

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

In the days following the Minnesota Vikings' 3-13 finish in 2011, ownership promoted Rick Spielman from vice president of player personnel to general manager with the hope that he could rebuild things.

The Vikings had one of their best seasons in 2009, going 12-4 and advancing to the NFC title game, but with coach Brad Childress overseeing the 53-man roster the team had gotten old and broken down.

The fact this happened shouldn't have come as a shock given that Childress' vision wasn't toward the future but rather remaining competitive in the short term. Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings had little turnover from 2009 to 2010.

This proved to be a major mistake.

The Vikings fell to 6-10 in 2010 and Childress was fired in late November following a 31-3 loss to Green Bay at the Metrodome. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was named interim coach and earned the full-time job after going 3-3 to finish the season.

Frazier and Spielman then shared equal power for a year. The results caused owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to reassess and give Spielman the biggest say in the organization when it came to football matters.

Spielman presented the Wilfs with his vision for the future and embarked on a rebuilding plan. The Vikings then proceeded to go 10-6, finishing second in the NFC North and earning a first-round playoff berth against Green Bay.

No matter what anyone tells you, there was no one who expected this quick of turnaround. An honest assessment of 2012 would have been this: "That almost seemed too good to be true."

Turns out it was.

The Vikings will enter Monday night's game against the New York Giants with a 1-4 record and coming off a brutal home loss to Carolina.

If you're Frazier, who has only the 2014 season left on his contract, you have to be massively disappointed with what you've seen so far. The loss to the Panthers and the Vikings' overall performance almost certainly means a coaching change will be coming in early January if this continued.

But what about Spielman? How surprised is he by the step backward the Vikings have taken?

No executive in sports will use the word rebuilding in public, but that was what Spielman planned on doing when he assumed the general manager's job in January 2012.  He wanted to fix the mess Childress had created.

The Vikings then had some good luck, got some breaks and received an out-of-this-world season from running back Adrian Peterson in going from three to 10 victories.

Spielman likely didn't point this out to the Wilfs as the Vikings got off to a 4-1 start in 2012, but he probably is doing so now that the record has been reserved.

"Remember, we knew this would take some time," Spielman can tell an ownership group that values his opinion and allowed him to jettison veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield during the offseason in part because right tackle Phil Loadholt commanded more money than expected.

Meanwhile, Spielman can hold his breath and hope that Josh Freeman proves to be the quarterback Christian Ponder isn't and that Freeman will be willing to sign a long-term deal after getting what amounts to an 11-game tryout in Minnesota.

Between the quarterback position and a porous defense, the Vikings have plenty of issues that Spielman is going to need to resolve.

These problem areas mean the clock is ticking on Frazier and his coaching staff. Those always are the first guys to pay the price.

But when it comes to Spielman he might be in a place to tell anyone that matters that nothing was as good as it seemed a year ago and nothing is as bad as it seems now.

It's simply part of what can be a painful process that is going to require the patience that was discussed in January 2012.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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