A More Committed Owner?

Word from inside the Vikings organization seems to be pointing toward a more aggressive outlook in free agency. It appears to be coming from the top spot, and a team source explains why.

With the arrival of veteran defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell in Minnesota, a fresh perspective has been instilled in regards to the depth on the Vikings' defensive roster. This is not to say the Vikings strolled through the 2003 season with blinders on, but Cottrell has already brought an air of confidence and value to an organization that desperately intends to improve.

Upon the Cottrell hire, the Vikings again embark on a journey to add free-agent players that will enhance a defense that showed promise during the past season but wilted under the pressure of injury, inexperience, and inconsistency.

Red McCombs, the often maligned owner of the Minnesota Vikings, appears committed to providing the team's front office all the support needed for this organization to take the next step. Although plans for a new stadium are going nowhere fast and McCombs' continuos flirting episodes with the NFL and cities to house a potential Vikings organization move, McCombs understands the necessity to win.

"As the story has been around here for the past couple years, the stigma of this organization moving remains a possibility. From the rumors of the team being shopped to the ongoing discussions of a new stadium deal being discussed, the only aspect that changes is the year," a team source said. "We have been told to scout and be prepared for the free-agent player signing period and free agency. McCombs has expressed to us we are going to do what we need to do to get the players in here we need to win with.

"Unlike last season, when we knew heading into the off-season we would not be attacking all the top-tier free-agent players, this time around we are going to be more aggressive."

The belief throughout the organization is the hiring of Cottrell plays more into the overall direction of the organization than many outside the organization would realize. McCombs appears to be comfortable and confident in the track record of Cottrell. Also, indications coming from league circles are McCombs was not completely sold on former defensive coordinator George O'Leary's ability to get the most out of players or changing of the scheme to stop the team's steady defensive decline throughout the season.

This decline and head coach Mike Tice's staunch dealings with the team during the second half of the season made for some tough decisions for McCombs. Not wanting to show signs of instability within an organization he is willing to improve and potentially sell or move, McCombs wanted additional support within the coaching staff.

"It wasn't the case of if or when Mike (Tice) would be fired. Actually, we heard some grumblings from McCombs late in the season that he was not satisfied with the inconsistent play of the team over the second half of the season," the source said. "Our understanding is coaching and communication was an issue with McCombs, and he wanted the best qualified and experienced defensive coach on board to work with the talent here on the roster, as well as getting the input of a defensive coach that has been successful.

"The input through evaluation has been ongoing, and we see in Cottrell a coach who knows what it takes to win. He (Cottrell) can be effective if we give him the tools he needs."

Those tools are already being organized and evaluated. Some of the players on the 2003 roster may have different roles in the 2004 season, and they certainly will scheme to the strength of the roster rather than trying to force a square peg in a round hole.



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