A big part of being a leader is knowing when to be completely transparent and when to say the right things. This is true across all industries and environments but is especially true in the sports world.
Back in February, Rick Spielman was asked about Stefon Diggs status within the organization and famously responded:
“There is no reason to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking.”
It was less than two months later that Diggs was dealt to the Buffalo Bills, of course, in a trade that has turned out quite well for both teams. This was a textbook front office play from a transparency standpoint: Say what you know needs to be said regardless of the reality of the situation behind the scenes.
It’s important not to hurt your leverage in negotiations — or for that matter, further the divide between the organization and its players or coaches. Handling things the right way led us directly to our young superstar in the making Justin Jefferson. Spielman did exactly what he should’ve done and just said the right things.
Last week Spielman took to the COVID podium to discuss not a potential move, but one that had already been made. The Vikings had traded their defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens just seven weeks after acquiring him from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Prior to the press conference, as news hit the Internet, the Spielman roast began. The team guessed wrong on their potential this season, and it cost them big time. Six games of Ngakoue’s services cost them upwards of 50 spots in draft capital for no return. The front office would’ve been just as well served to take the pick and throw it in the Minnesota River. Fans, journalists and Twitter experts have had a field day at Spielman’s expense, and a couple of his press conference answers won’t necessarily help his cause.
When discussing the rest of the season, Spielman stated: “No one thinks the season’s over right now.”
And when discussing Cousins, he stated: “I don’t think anyone has lost faith in Kirk Cousins.”
The desire to overreact and throw aggressive criticisms Spielman’s way is strong, and pretty easy by the way. Watch this:
“No one thinks this season is over.”
Rick, everybody thinks the season is over. The Vikings have about as much of a chance of salvaging this season as I do of enjoying an October snowstorm.
“I don’t think anyone has lost faith in Kirk Cousins.”
Rick, everybody has lost faith in Kirk Cousins. Even Kirk has lost faith in Kirk Cousins. He has so little faith in himself that last week he closed his eyes while throwing the football on one of his interceptions.
See, very easy…but it’s important to remember the Diggs situation. This is another place where pure transparency would only hurt the organization and their players. I mean, what’s Spielman supposed to say: Yeah, we’re absolute garbage, and I would trade Cousins for Blaine Gabbert if I could? That wouldn’t help him or anyone in that locker room.
But just because he’s smart enough to understand how to answer questions doesn’t mean there’s not a larger problem here. The above could be true, while at the same time he could also actually believe the things he says.
And that’s the real danger.
Is this a man who has so stubbornly hooked his wagon to the Cousins experience that he can’t seem to see what everybody else can plainly see? Will he continue to ship off and break down pieces of a team completely unwilling to admit the QB is the main thing that needs to be broken down and shipped off? Is this a man who is willing to die on Cousins Island? And are we going to have to watch Anthony Harris, Adam Thielen and maybe even someday Harrison Smith leave because Spielman can’t say “oops, my bad?”
Only time will tell. We might be sitting here in February laughing at these answers the same way we did the Diggs answer. Or we might be sitting here with a disaster of a roster and an overpriced quarterback who isn’t going anywhere.
Either way, we will very soon learn whether Spielman is clueless or just saying the right things.