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Updated: February 26th, 2014 4:50pm
Zulgad: Rick Spielman wise to consult Norv Turner on next QB decision

Zulgad: Rick Spielman wise to consult Norv Turner on next QB decision

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Christian Ponder's failure as the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback helped cost Leslie Frazier his job.

Rick Spielman wasn't so unfortunate.

The general manager retained his position despite a 5-10-1 finish in 2013 that once and for all proved the selection of Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft was a 10 on the mistake meter.

While he might have good fortune on his side, Spielman knows he can't survive another miss on "a quarterback of the future."

So while the hire of Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the Vikings' coach got the majority of the headlines, another addition to the staff looks to be equally as important.

Norv Turner not only will serve as the Vikings' offensive coordinator, it also sounds as if the veteran coach will provide guidance for Spielman when it comes to finding a solution at quarterback.

 "He's an expert in (the quarterback) area," Spielman told the Star Tribune during the recently completed NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "We rely on everything, some outside stuff that I use, and rely on Norv. He'll have a huge influence on what direction this quarterback (situation) goes."

If this is really the case, Spielman deserves credit for realizing a weakness.

The enormous egos of many NFL executives and coaches leave them with the desire to get credit for finding the quarterback who solves their team's ills. Success in this department can make you a hero among the fan base. Failure can land you in the unemployment line.

"You always feel pressure," said Spielman, who joined the Vikings front office in 2006 and was given control of the roster after the 2011 season. "You always want to get good players, regardless at any position, and we've got a pretty good track record of bringing in some pretty good players. The quarterback thing is always going to be the one you're going to get judged on."

The judgment of Spielman in this area has not been kind.

On the day Frazier was fired, Spielman admitted that when it came to finding a quarterback, "I haven't gotten it right."

Spielman's lack of success began when he made the personnel decisions for the Miami Dolphins in the mid-2000s. As general manager of the Dolphins in 2004, he traded a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for A.J. Feeley.

Feeley ended up throwing more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (11) in 11 games and eight starts for the Dolphins in 2004 and had a 61.7 passer rating. He ended up as a backup in Miami and was traded to San Diego midway through the following season.

Spielman left the Dolphins during the 2005 offseason.

While Spielman did not have complete control of the Vikings' roster when Ponder was selected, he did run the draft in which the 12th pick was used on the quarterback from Florida State. Ponder showed flashes of ability late in the 2012 season as the Vikings made it to the playoffs but 2013 could not have gone worse.

Spielman now has a nearly blank canvas to work with when it comes to the QB situation at Winter Park. Ponder has a year left on his contract and could be kept, but it will be as a backup.

Matt Cassel, who either started or finished all five of the Vikings' victories this season, opted out of his contract and Josh Freeman is a lock to not return after signing as a free agent in October and being given one miserable start. The Vikings could attempt to bring back Cassel but there is no guarantee the veteran won't look elsewhere.

So in which direction will Spielman elect to go?

This is where consulting with Turner makes perfect sense.

Turner, unlike Spielman, has a resume that includes some successes with quarterbacks. Turner was Troy Aikman's coordinator in Dallas and was Philip Rivers' head coach with the San Diego Chargers.

Spielman held a senior vice president title with the Dolphins in 2002 when Turner took over as coordinator. Turner helped guide a Dolphins offense in which journeyman Jay Fiedler established a career-high passer rating of 85.2 with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The just-completed combine gave the Vikings' brass a look at a quarterback class that includes Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel at the top.

It's unlikely any of these quarterbacks will be around when the Vikings' first selection comes up at No. 8 and unless Spielman wants to give up some of his picks to move up, odds are all the top QBs will be gone when Minnesota picks.

Spielman's safest play might be to use this draft to improve a defense that was terrible in 2013 and take a quarterback in the third or fourth round. That way Turner, and his son, Vikings quarterback coach Scott Turner, would have the luxury of trying to develop that player, while a yet-to-be determined veteran starts in 2014.

Spielman expressed confidence in the depth of this draft class when it comes to the quarterback spot. The Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks are among the teams that have proven you can find a good young quarterback after the first round, taking Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft.

The odds Spielman will get that lucky are extremely remote, but at least with Turner helping out in the process the odds increase the Vikings eventually will land on the right guy at quarterback.

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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