Welcome to the 2020 Bye Week, Vikings fans! The sky is falling and rumblings of drastic, wholesale changes for the franchise are beginning to get louder and louder amongst the fanbase. As if getting dominated for four quarters by the winless Atlanta Falcons on Sunday wasn’t enough, mother nature had to double down on our collective misery by dumping a record-setting snowfall on our hands in the middle of freakin’ October! My goodness. Why don’t you do us all a favor, 2020, and go ahead and get bent.
Alright Minnesota, this is a safe space. Now, show of hands. Who wants to join me in talking about what a potential rebuild could look like for the Minnesota Vikings following an already lost 2020 season?
I’m right there with you. But before we dive into a full-on Vikings Pitchfork Brigade and start hauling ass for Twin Cities Orthopedic, let’s take a look at some recent success stories of other franchises who successfully cleaned house and started anew.
Following the 2018 season, the Miami Dolphins justifiably moved on from head coach Adam Gase, who went 23-25 during his three years driving the boat in South Beach. While general manager Chris Grier was given a shot at redemption by Dolphins ownership after whiffing on the Gase hire, the franchise hired former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores and embarked on a full-blown tank job — one that felt more commonplace in the NBA, as opposed to the parity-driven NFL.
The Dolphins immediately started selling off assets in hopes of garnering long-term value to better align for their window of competitive football once Tom Brady inevitably left New England and the AFC East. Below is a list of the noteworthy trades that took place down in Miami in 2019.
- Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick traded to Tennessee Titans for a 2019 seventh-round pick and 2020 fourth-round pick.
- Traded defensive end Robert Quinn to Dallas Cowboys for a 2020 sixth-round pick.
- Acquired a 2020 first-round pick, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick, cornerback Johnson Bademosi and tackle Julien Davenport from Houston Texans in exchange for tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick.
- Acquired a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick from Pittsburgh in exchange for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
The Dolphins trusted the process, drafted their (fingers crossed) new franchise quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and now sit at 3-3 — well within striking distance of making a run at a playoff berth in the lowly Brady-less AFC East, right as Flores and Grier are handing the keys of the franchise over to Tagovailoa.
Talk about a pair of organizations in Minnesota and Miami that are going in two completely different directions as they enter their respective Week 7 byes.
Hey, I get it. It’s probably way too early to chalk the Dolphins’ Magnum Opus of a tank job up as a bona fide success story, right?
Let’s turn the clock back to 2016 and revisit what a particular franchise did with some head coaches and a general manager who had multiple years remaining on their contracts (sound familiar?).
San Francisco 49ers
At the conclusion of the 2016 season, which saw the 49ers fire their third head coach in as many years and general manager Trent Baalke, the York family green lit the top-down rebuild of their franchise even though multiple years remained on the contracts of former head coaches Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, as well as Baalke’s contract.
The Yorks knew that in order to get their franchise back on track, they had to bite the bullet and pay out just south of $70 million to tell their former leadership to not show up to work anymore.
I understand that some of us want/need to be Wilf Wallet Watchers, standing arm-in-arm with like-minded Pohlad Pocket Protectors on the front lines of fiscal responsibility regarding our two favorite sports franchises, but come on.
Does it really affect you much, as a regular ol’ Vikings fan who just got done shoveling your driveway/sidewalk two weeks before Halloween, if the Wilfs have to dig a little deeper into their billionaire pockets in order to correct the catastrophic mistakes that have accompanied general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer?
As we all know by now, the 49ers hit a 500-foot home run to dead center field with their decision to hire John Lynch as general manager and Kyle Shanahan as head coach. While the franchise took their fair share of growing pains in 2017, Lynch was able to swing a late-season trade, parting ways with a second-round pick to the New England Patriots for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers closed their rookie head coach’s debut season by winning the final five games with Jimmy G at the helm.
2018 turned out to be a tough pill of Blessing in Disguise for the 49ers. When Garoppolo tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of Patrick Mahomes’ debut inside Arrowhead Stadium during Week 3, San Francisco was on the fast track to Tanksville, culminating in the No. 2 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Lynch selected defensive end Nick Bosa and solidified his defense for years to come, coming a wide open Garoppolo-to-Emmanuel Sanders deep ball away from hoisting the 2019 Lombardi Trophy against those same Mahomes-led Chiefs that helped kickstart this whole thing for San Francisco just a little over a year prior.
No matter where you currently stand on what’s best for the future of the Minnesota Vikings, I’m pretty sure its fair to say that the 49ers get a shiny gold star for shelling out all that Dough Re Mi to tell their incompetent coaching staff and front office to kick rocks.
It’s imperative we recognize that the San Francisco 49ers are mentioned in this piece as a success story because they hired Lynch and Shanahan to call the shots. Accepting responsibility for ownership’s mistakes by way of paying off recently extended contracts for head coaches and failed general managers is only half the battle.
Keeping the San Francisco 49ers’ blueprint of success in mind here, let’s explore what it would look like if the Vikings decided to part ways with Spielman and Zimmer, even after extending both of their contracts this past summer.
The Wilfs would be forced to pay eight-figures to simply tell Spielman and Zimmer to go away, just like what the 49ers did back in 2016, as well as what the Atlanta Falcons did by letting go of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, just days before coming into U.S. Bank Stadium last Sunday and beating the brakes off the Vikings. Quinn and Dimitroff had contracts that were valid through the 2022 season, a bill which Falcons owner Arthur Blank is now stuck paying before even getting his entree.
But what kind of young, offensive mastermind Shanahan 2.0 type could the Vikings bring in to be the next head coach, you might ask?
Allow me to introduce you to 31-year-old Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, Joe Brady.