The Minnesota Vikings have elevated Rick Spielman to general manager, the first move in what will be a critical offseason toward reviving a team that matched the worst record in franchise history.
Spielman was promoted Tuesday from his previous role as vice president of player personnel, which he held since his hire in May 2006. In their announcement, the Vikings said Spielman will oversee "all football-related activities," though it wasn't immediately clear whether he'll have ultimate power to hire and fire head coaches.
At least, the organization's nebulous front office structure became less muddy.
The Vikings haven't had a true general manager since Mike Lynn in the 1980s, operating instead by committee with the coach essentially having final authority over the roster. Owner Zygi Wilf has preferred a collaborative style of management, but the sharp decline from NFC runner-up in 2009 to consecutive last-place finishes with 9-23 combined record over the last two years prompted a change.
Previously, Spielman was in charge of the scouting departments and the draft, coach Leslie Frazier ran the team and vice president for football administration Rob Brzezinski negotiated contracts and managed the salary cap. But snags in the group-decision system were exposed when Frazier's predecessor, Brad Childress, hastily cut malcontent wide receiver Randy Moss without consultation last November. Frazier also pushed last summer for the Vikings to acquire veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb to give rookie Christian Ponder more time to learn, but the offense was lifeless during six games under McNabb and Ponder took over in October.
Spielman and Frazier were scheduled to speak about the changes at an afternoon news conference at Winter Park.
"This establishes the organizational structure that will lead to the long-term success of the Vikings," Wilf said in a statement distributed by the team. "Having watched Rick over the years, we have the utmost confidence that he will help us reach our ultimate goal of winning championships."
Spielman, the older brother of former NFL linebacker and current college TV analyst Chris Spielman, will start his 22nd season as an NFL executive. He was a scout for the Detroit Lions from 1990-96 and the director of pro personnel for the Chicago Bears from 1997-99 before heading to Miami with head coach Dave Wannstedt in 2000 to be the vice president of player personnel for the Dolphins.
Spielman served mostly as an adviser to Wannstedt on draft, trade and free agency decisions, but Wannstedt's authority was reduced after the 2003 season and Spielman was promoted to general manager after beating out six other candidates. Wannstedt resigned in the middle of a messy 2004 season, when Spielman's moves drew plenty of criticism, most notably the trade of a second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback A.J. Feeley, who never panned out.
Nick Saban took over as head coach in 2005, and Spielman was squeezed out. Spielman spent one year as a television analyst for ESPN before coming to Minnesota to replace the fired Fran Foley.
Rick Spielman has always been heavily involved in personnel decisions, but his promotion to general…