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Trust me, it isn’t madness.

That’s the way I responded on Twitter to a Purple Insider subscriber who asked (via GIF) if it was madness that the Minnesota Vikings were moving on from long-time trainer Eric Sugarman. I didn’t expect to receive a flood of responses from fans — some wanting to get more dirt, others accusing me of not knowing jack squat and just pretending to be an “insider” and a high volume of folks who were ready to defend the trainer to the death.

It wasn’t long after that former Viking Ifeadi Odenigbo went on a Twitter rant about Sugarman and all hell broke loose online.

What you find in football is that there are a lot of different people who have a lot of different experiences. Some players will tell you that they loved playing for a coach, others will say they didn’t enjoy that coach. Same goes for teammates. I even found somebody recently who didn’t like playing for Gary Kubiak (which was a first). So it’s probably the same with the trainer.

While there have been people within the game who have expressed similar concerns to me to those tweeted by Odenigbo and the Star Tribune reported that the tight relationship between the brass and Sugarman was an issue for some, my point in saying that it isn’t “madness” wasn’t to say that there are secrets about Sugarman that I can’t tell you, it was to say that it’s OK to move on. It’s good to change. The trainer is a vital part of the operation and Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should have someone that they are comfortable working with.

Part of the analytics movement in the NFL is sports science. The L.A. Rams were one of the most cutting edge teams in the league when it came to player training. They relied heavily on workload data to make decisions about player recovery. It’s important that the Vikings’ decision makers are on the same page with their trainer.

They don’t call it a “new regime” because it’s two new fellas in charge. Usually hiring a new head coach and new GM at the same time means that there will be lots of things within the organization overhauled. How they work with the media will be different. How they schedule practices will be different. The people that they want in prominent positions will be different. The players who they want on the roster will be different.

The new brass decided to keep Keenan McCardell as the receivers coach but let respected defensive line coach Andre Patterson go elsewhere. Patterson was beloved by many within the walls of TCO Performance Center but he was also in a prominent assistant coach position and had a powerful voice with players. It isn’t a disrespect to Patterson that O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah preferred having a D-line coach teaching things the way new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell wants them taught instead of how they’ve always done it under Patterson.

It’s called “healthy churn” in the business world.

It’s understandable that fans would become attached to people within the team that they come to know through the years. People like Patterson or Sugarman have been staples. That doesn’t mean they are right for this situation. O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah have to be allowed to pick the coaches and employees who they want by their side.

The same goes for players. There are a number of players on the Vikings’ roster who fans love that might not be here next year. That’s why I picked a picture of Danielle Hunter for this column. The Vikings have a couple of weeks to decide whether Hunter is going to be part of the future of the defense. On the fifth day of the league year, he’s owed an $18 million roster bonus which works as a pseudo deadline to make a decision. They might have to let him go. If they do, that’s OK.

Paying Hunter top-tier money when he’s coming off back-to-back injury seasons in a situation where the Vikings could sign three or four players for the price of Hunter might not be the wisest move in the eyes of Adofo-Mensah. The 49ers, for example, traded star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner rather than give him a massive contract.

If they decide that it’s more business savvy to spend the cap space elsewhere rather than on one expensive/popular player, they wouldn’t be doing something completely off the deep end. It would just be different from the last regime.

Same goes if they elect to trade Adam Thielen. He’s still very good and one of the all-time great Minnesota sports stories but his cap hit is set to be near $17 million. Every Sunday the stands are filled with No. 19 jerseys and it would be a gut-punch to everyone who has watched his circus catches over the years but the Vikings may end up needing to be tactical with him. Adofo-Mensah did not put them in cap hell but he has to get them out of it somehow.

You could say: Just restructure! But it wouldn’t make sense for the Vikings to do business the same way they did before. The previous brass was criticized for keeping all of their own people in house, giving out bad contracts to players they drafted, kicking money down the road (they’re still paying Kyle Rudolph on the cap, by the way), hiring their kids for prominent positions and staying status quo with everyone behind the scenes. Now we may see all of that change. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell deserve time to shape their own team rather than being beholden to things from the past.

Yes this includes the quarterback too.

On Tuesday the Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson and released Bobby Wagner. While they aren’t run by new people, their leadership decided it was time for healthy churn. They were in a very similar situation to the Vikings with a roster that wasn’t good enough to compete and an unfavorable cap situation, so they hit the reset button.

Teams are rarely rewarded for hanging onto the past for too long. Had the Rams held onto the fact that they drafted Jared Goff No. 1 overall and that he went to a Super Bowl in 2018 and they gave him an extension, they wouldn’t have rings right now. Had the Chiefs hung onto Alex Smith because he was successful in the regular season, they wouldn’t have Patrick Mahomes. Maybe Denver wouldn’t have had the firepower to acquire Russell Wilson without trading Von Miller.

If the Vikings wanted to desperately cling to the past, Spielman and Zimmer should have stayed. But they didn’t. They wanted to move forward and give the new leadership their chance to put together a team in their vision. That might come with some discomfort. It’s better for the long term health of the organization. It’s the farthest thing from madness.

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