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A comment from former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Tuesday is another burn against former head coach Mike Zimmer, who since being fired has been outed as a coach who wasn't all that interested in collaboration. 

Appearing on the Move The Sticks Podcast with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, Spielman what it's like to be judged on his draft picks when those picks were based on a scheme that was constantly changing. 

"That's a tough part of the job," admitted Spielman, saying "I think we went through maybe six different [offensive coordinators] during coach Zimmer's era."

Spielman said multiple times that drafting players was a combination of finding talent and players with the physical abilities that match a coach's scheme. With Zimmer, the Vikings went through Norv Turner, Pat Shurmur, John DeFilippo, Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak, and Klint Kubiak. 

"It was constantly like a moving target all the time," said Zimmer of the constant changes. "You try to do your best to adapt and the guys that we do have, can you do some things from your scheme to adjust to their skill set? But when you have the coaching turnover that it is and you’re always trying to marry up the personnel to the scheme, are there ways that some of these coaches that say, ‘Hey, I have to adjust my scheme to what the players can do as well.’ Some coaches are saying ‘This is what we run and this is what we have to have and if they don’t fit this then I don’t want them.'"

Related: Zimmer's Vikings tenure was pockmarked by disputes with staff

Turner quit because of a "difference of opinions" with Zimmer. Shurmur gave Minnesota some stability before taking the Giants head coaching job. DeFilippo followed and didn't make it a full season before Zimmer fired him for failing to run the ball enough. The final three years were filled by Stefanski and the Kubiaks. 

Spielman, of course, was part of the team that hired Zimmer in 2014. He recalled asking 46 players on the team following the firing of Leslie Frazier in 2013 what traits they wanted in their next head coach, and the vast majority of players polled said they "wanted to be held accountable both on and off the field." 

"Zim was the perfect coach for us at that time," Spielman said. 

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Spielman admits 'failures' analyzing quarterbacks

Since coming aboard in 2006, the Vikings made the playoffs six times, won four division titles and went to two NFC Championship games. But Spielman's run was also marred by his failures to find a franchise quarterback and build an offensive line.

Spielman reflected on the quarterback position when he was asked about the signal callers remaining in the playoffs: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill. 

“Most of these guys are top 10 from a statistical standpoint. But I think you have to go deeper into that because stats don’t always tell the true story behind it,” Spielman said. “When I looked at it and dove a little deeper, stats don’t mean you have to throw for 500 yards or five touchdowns. What I’ve always kind of looked at was what do they do in critical situations during a game? How do they respond when it’s third down? How do they keep the sticks moving? When it’s fourth quarter how are they? When they’re behind or ahead, it’s amazing when you look at some quarterback ratings when they’re behind and I looked at some quarterbacks that all the sudden, they start to tighten up and then when they’re ahead, they’re loose and they’re moving the team up and down the field.”

Spielman’s comments may sound familiar to one of his biggest moves, as he signed Kirk Cousins prior to the 2018 season and gave him a two year extension in the spring of 2020.

Cousins has the sixth-highest passer rating among NFL starters since his arrival in Minnesota but the Vikings have a 33-29-1 record with one playoff victory with Cousins at QB.

The flaws in Cousins’ game have inspired some to begin the search to draft new quarterback. But Spielman had a checkered past in that department as well.

The 2012 selection of Christian Ponder was one of the biggest busts in franchise history. When Spielman tried again two years later, Teddy Bridgewater showed promise before suffering a career-altering knee injury prior to the 2016 season.

“When you talk about the quarterbacks, and I’ve made some mistakes through my career on quarterbacks, I always thought the No. 1 thing to look for was the intelligence part of the game,” Spielman explained. "...we do a lot of different types of psychological testing, but what I learned is not only do you have to be smart, but you have to have mental quickness and how quickly can you process things.”

He continued: “A lot of these guys went up there and talked verbatim what the coordinator said and even sounded better than the coordinator that’s explaining it. I was like ‘this guy’s going to be a hell of a coach someday.’ The point that I missed was that, that’s great, you can go up and draw that and this safety’s rolling down and this linebacker’s coming off the edge, where’s your hot reads and stuff? They can talk about it but that’s a 10-minute process. Can they do that in 2.5 seconds?”

While the failure to find a quarterback was a big reason for Spielman’s dismissal, so was the offensive line. The Vikings routinely had issues in the middle of the trenches with 2019 first-round pick Garrett Bradbury and others struggling to make the transition to the professional game.

But where Spielman was quick to point out his own flaws to find a quarterback, he mentioned the Vikings' consistent turnover among Zimmer’s coaching staff.

“We relied a lot on our philosophy and what our system is on offense and I know that when we changed when Gary Kubiak came in…it was a whole different philosophy on the type of offensive lineman that you wanted,” Spielman said.

“You have to rely on that. Because if he’s going to be a solid player in the league or an elite player in the league, if you don’t marry him up to the right scheme because he’s probably not going to play at that level because physically he can’t do some of the things you’re asking him to do.”

Spielman’s comments could shine light on the Vikings’ fluid situation at guard. Zimmer gave the front office a mandate to find bigger guards which led to the selection of Wyatt Davis in last year’s draft. But Davis showed up overweight for minicamp and was rarely active during his rookie season.

Perhaps it was Davis’ athleticism that prevented him from being involved in the Vikings’ zone-based scheme but the same issues persisted for Oli Udoh, who was converted from tackle and led all NFL offensive linemen in penalties this season.

Adding to the issues was the skill set of Cousins, who was a traditional pocket passer as opposed to the dual-threat skill set of fellow rookie Kellen Mond.

“If you have an immobile quarterback…those guys cannot get collapsed,” Spielman said. “Especially if the quarterback has to step up to throw the ball and you see some of these athletic quarterbacks that can make up for that."

A lot of these views could be why Zimmer and Spielman reportedly hadn’t talked for months before both were fired. Either way, failing to be on the same page clearly affected their ability to put together a team capable of getting over the hump. 

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