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Updated: January 15th, 2014 3:13pm
Zulgad: Rick Spielman, Vikings did well to avoid hiring a 'yes' man

Zulgad: Rick Spielman, Vikings did well to avoid hiring a 'yes' man

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by Judd Zulgad

Leslie Frazier approached the podium at Winter Park more than once this season and told the media that he felt starting Christian Ponder gave the Minnesota Vikings the best chance to win.

Frazier isn't going to be remembered around these parts as a great coach, but he also isn't a dumb man and anyone who honestly believed that Frazier felt Ponder was the best option at quarterback was probably being naïve.

No matter how he sold it after the fact it's difficult to buy that general manager Rick Spielman did not play a role in urging Frazier to be a good company guy and go along with the message being sold at Winter Park.

That message would have been this: "Look, we drafted Ponder 12th overall and we have to give him every chance possible to show he's not a bust, even if we know he is one."

A safe assumption is that Frazier did exactly as he was told and it helped cost him his job.

The handling of the Ponder situation left one with the impression that as he searched for his next head coach that Spielman would look for a guy willing to see things from his point of view.

A coach who wouldn't say what he was really thinking and, thus, wouldn't become too popular with the media.

That's what made it somewhat surprising Wednesday morning when ESPN broke the story that the Vikings would hire Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as their next coach.

Zimmer, a longtime NFL assistant, isn't known as a quiet type and he certainly isn't considered a yes man. The Bengals' coordinator since 2008, Zimmer is a fiery type and his personality is believed to be one reason why he had not been hired as a head coach despite getting five interviews through the years.

Zimmer is a guy who was loved by many in the Cincinnati media.

It's safe to say that if Spielman and Zimmer have a disagreement that Zimmer will be more than happy to tell Spielman why he is wrong. Zimmer also doesn't sound like the type who will tell the media that a quarterback gives his team the best chance to win if he doesn't believe that to be true.

This is not to say Spielman made a mistake in pursuing Zimmer.

Just the opposite.

Spielman is the type of guy who likes to craft a message to the outside world and have everyone stay on script by saying as little as possible.

Don't think that's true?

Remember Spielman whispering answers into Josh Freeman's ear as the quarterback answered questions on an introductory conference call in October? That's what we like to call a control freak.

For whatever reason, perhaps to save his own job, Spielman is now willing to hire a guy who probably wouldn't take kindly to having his ear whispered into by an NFL executive.

That's a good thing.

Zimmer will provide a fiery approach that should appease fans who shook their heads every time they didn't see Frazier showing a proper amount of emotion on the sideline.

It's likely Zimmer will not only display his feelings but also tell everyone exactly what he was angry about.

How will Spielman take it the first time that means the Vikings' dirty laundry is being shared in public by his head coach?

That's a question that has yet to be answered but will be a lot of fun to find out.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 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