Skip to main content

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.

Next Up


Body recovered from Mississippi River near hydro plant in St. Paul

Authorities say the body appeared to have been in the river for months.

Braxton Sorenson

Charges: Lakeville driver didn't call 911 after fatally striking teen on bicycle

The 15-year-old boy was killed while riding his bike along a route he frequented.

Crystal Lake in Robbinsdale

Body found along shoreline of Crystal Lake

Police identified the body as a male Tuesday afternoon.


Little Falls man killed in ATV crash over holiday weekend

The 55-year-old apparently lost control and was partially ejected from the vehicle on Sunday.

Ellie Ragin

Police chief reveals new details in 'heartbreaking' search for Elle Ragin

Police reveal new details that led investigators to Stearns County.

Subway Series new menu

Subway overhauling menu, offering 1M free subs on July 12

The "Subway Series" menu change is set to take over beginning July 12.

Reader-submitted video taken of people throwing fireworks at people and cars on July 4, 2022.

Watch: Fireworks fired at people, buildings in downtown Minneapolis

Footage shared widely on social media shows chaotic scenes downtown on Fourth of July evening.

Ellie Ragin

Search for missing Elle Ragin shifts to park in Stearns County

Mississippi River County Park is closed to the public until further notice.

storm, severe weather, derecho

Developing derecho likely to blast southwest Minnesota

Damaging winds up to 90 mph are the main threat.

Screen Shot 2022-07-05 at 12.29.03 PM

Two Minneapolis restaurants announce closures

It's the end of the line for Pie & Mighty and Bunny's Bar & Grill.

Grape Jelly

Someone is sending St. Paul resident unsolicited grape jelly

A resident said they received a large number of deliveries containing only jars of jelly.

Braxton Sorenson

Family identifies 15-year-old bicyclist killed by suspected drunk driver

A GoFundMe page has been created to support his family.


Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Coller: New Vikings GM Adofo-Mensah needs to be ruthless

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah needs to make some big, difficult decisions, writes Matthew Coller.


Imagining an offseason where the Vikings let everyone walk

The Vikings can't lose sight of developing young players as they try to compete in 2022.

Combine Reports

The Vikings' QB situation, randomness and the edges they are searching for

Now here’s where it gets spicy. Kwesi, do you believe that this is a weak QB draft class?

Combine Reports (1)

In Indy, Vikings' new brass is giving hope to things that seemed hopeless

Interesting to see how other coaches have talked about their QB situation.

TCO Stadium Field Level Day

Where is the rebuilding part of the Vikings' offseason plan?

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah called it "competitive rebuilding" but there's no sign of long-term plays.


What does it mean for the Vikings to have an analytics-based front office?

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may not want to be the 'analytics guy' but his front office is going to follow the data.

Kirk Cousins

Vikings GM raves about Cousins, says he's great 'when the odds are shifted in his favor'

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah also talked about Cousins needing to find the balance between Superman and Clark Kent.

Kirk Cousins

Extending Cousins means finding answers that haven't been there

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's first major move is to lock up Cousins through 2023, which means he believes he can win where no one else has.