Vikings

The Benefits Of Having the NFL’s Highest-Graded Culture

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The NFLPA surveyed 1,300 players and asked them to grade their organization based on several categories closely pertaining to a player’s daily experiences inside team facilities. The Minnesota Vikings were the highest-graded team in the league.

Here’s how the Vikings graded:

Players enjoy all of the amenities Zygi and Mark Wilf have invested in over the recent years. These stellar grades also reflect well upon the new management and coaching staff.

Kevin O’Connell is regarded as one of the most player-friendly coaches in the league, and that impact has been felt in Year 1. “Culture is people, and it’s something we strive to work on every single day, and I think our players feel that,” O’Connell said, adding that he’s “not surprised” by the survey results.

These grades reflect the positive statements we heard from players before last season.

Adam Thielen: “When you can wake up before your alarm goes off and get excited to go and get ready for practice, that’s not a very common thing to happen.”

Danielle Hunter: “Players wake up, and they want to come to work. They’re not worried too much. They just wake up and want to play football. That’s the main thing. Young guys are eager to learn. Older guys are able to teach the younger guys. It’s a good overall atmosphere,”

Kirk Cousins: “That’s really what Kevin [O’Connell] is preaching. It’s ‘our.’ We’re in it together. And we’ve got to be about team.”

Think back to a year ago with Mike Zimmer at the helm. There were constant rumors of a toxic team environment. After Zimmer’s term came to an end, there was some truth to those rumors and players began to speak out.

Eric Kendricks: “I don’t think a fear-based organization is a way to go.”

Brian O’Neill: “I think it could be something as little as, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ in the hallway, or when you walk by guys in the hallway, and they say, ‘Hello, how you going? Good morning.”

Terence Newman: “It became toxic” after the 2017 season.

The survey even mentions Minnesota’s decision to remove Eric Sugarman, the former head trainer. It claimed his departure was vital to the Vikings’ excellent grade, stating that “several players had negative experiences” with him.

These flaws within the Zimmer regime prove that a shakeup was overdue and that players were eager for change. Not to mention all the other previous team cultures that led to incidents like the infamous Vikings Love Boat or the Whizzinator.

Regardless, the Vikings needed this change, and this survey proves that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell practice what they preach. Furthermore, this survey turned team culture from a buzzword to a quantifiable metric, which could be beneficial for the Vikings.

The Vikings, who are $28 million over the salary cap, could turn the survey into a bargaining chip.

Imagine this scenario. The Vikings are bidding for a player with the Washington Commanders, who graded last in the survey. Which team do you think the player will want to join after seeing the results of this survey? Let’s not act like this is unreasonable, either. This situation happened five years ago. The Vikings were competing with the New York Jets for Cousins, and he chose Minnesota for less total money.

“Ultimately,” Cousins said, “the leadership of the [Vikings] organization is what set it apart.”

Overall, being the most favorable organization in the NFL is phenomenal for the future of this team. It affirms that Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell are building a culture and provides the team with a bargaining chip to lure players into taking team-friendly deals to join the Vikings.

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