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Rick Spielman on Mike Zimmer, Offseason Moves, NFL Draft, Johnny Manziel, and More

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman joined ESPN 99.1’s Jeff Thurn on Monday’s edition of Overtime.

Spielman discusses letting Leslie Frazier go, and hiring Mike Zimmer as head coach: 

“You know those are all very difficult decisions, but when we decided to make the change, we went through our head coaching process very thorough, ended up interviewing seven guys with our ownership, myself, and George Paton, my assistant general manager. A lot of great candidates out there, and a lot of guys we interviewed I thought were going to be potential head coaches down the road and relevantly shortly, but we felt Mike Zimmer brought what we felt to our football team. He’s a disciplinarian, very passionate, very good football coach. His track record speaks for itself on what’s he done throughout his career as a defensive coach. I think after we’ve hired him, and worked with him the past couple of months, he’s been even better than expected. Then, he did a great job of putting a staff together, and I think one of the key hires was getting Norv Turner in here as our offensive coordinator.”

Why did the Vikings decide to bring back quarterback Matt Cassel?

“One of our goals was to make sure we got Matt Cassel back. He did a good job last year, and brought some stability to the position. Him, and then we have Christian Ponder still here, we will see what happens in the draft, but it doesn’t box you in at taking a quarterback at the number eighth spot. We are going to get an opportunity to see our guys at a voluntary minicamp coming up here at the end of the month, and then after our coaches get a chance to work with our current players on our roster, that will help formulate some of the direction that we do go in the draft.”

Cassel started nine games in Minnesota while throwing for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

Thurn asks Spielman if there is ever a time when a general manager should make a move to appease their franchise’s superstars? I.e., Adrian Peterson tweeting interest about bringing in Michael Vick in the offseason. 

“I think you have to do what is best for the organization. I know all of our players are working extremely hard. They are putting in, and want to win just like everybody in this organization, but as a general manager, you have to look at the big picture, and do what you feel is best for the organization to move forward. And I think the players respect that, but we also respect them, and that just tells you how passionate they are and how much they want to win here, as well.”

Spielman on separating emotions when making decisions as general manager: 

“That’s the most difficult part of the job. You build up relationships with the players, relationships up with the coaches because you are working with them on a daily basis and get to be very good friends with them. That hardest thing that you have to be really disciplined at separating the personal relationships with what you feel is best for the organization and how you move forward.”

Did Spielman ever feel Jared Allen would be back in Minnesota?

“The first and foremost thing is we wanted to get our staff in place, and then once we got our staff in place, then we did a full evaluation of where our roster was. I think when you have a new staff in place, you can see a lot of moves that we have done in free agency, we are signing younger guys that are going to grow in our organization and be here over the next three, four, or five years. When you make the change like we have made, we went out and spent the money, but spent the money on players I know are going to come in here, be here for the long haul, and that was the objective when we headed into free agency.”

Spielman on if he’s satisfied with the moves the Vikings have made defensively? 

“We feel very confident that we will be better on defense, and I know that’s been Zimmer’s speciality everywhere he’s been. He’s had great defenses and have been successful in that area, and one of the things we did when he first got in here was he sat down with all my scouts, my directors, we sat there we went through what he is looking for specifically at each position. What are the traits, and how are they going to be utilized that we are going to run? So, we were very detailed and the traits we were looking for him to run the defense he’s been so successful at.

Spielman’s evaluations on Johnny Manziel: 

“What I am going to do, I’m going to leave, I know we’ve done extensive research on quarterbacks, a lot players in this draft. We are getting ready to have, what we call our top 30 players come through our building this week. We are still doing and finalized the touches on each guy to make sure we have a more understanding of not only, we have a pretty understanding of what they can do on the field, but what are they going to be like when they come in our building? What are they going to be like off the field? By the time we get to the draft, and we get on that clock, that we will be ready to go and feel very comfortable at whoever we select.”

What plans do the Vikings have with the eighth pick? 

“I’ve never gone into a draft where we have never had multiple ways to go, and every year it is different. We go in our preparation, our draft meetings, we go through a zazillion draft scenarios. I couldn’t tell you, it’s like everybody is tired of me talking about scenarios by the time it’s done. But there are no surprises on draft day, and I think especially, over the last two years when I became general manager, we have been very aggressive about moving up and back, trying to get the right players here to give us the best chance to be successful.”

To hear more of Spielman’s interview with Thurn, listen below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thurn can heard on ESPN 99.1 weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

**For comments or story ideas, email Sam at, or follow him on Twitter @samtastad.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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