Frugal Spending Hard To Stomach

It's difficult to see the Vikings' front office and coaching staff struggle on the front lines without the financial support behind their efforts. The evidence is overwhelming.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan resigned Wednesday to accept the same position with the Miami Dolphins. He'll sign a three-year deal believed to be worth about $600,000 a year, about twice what he was being paid by the Vikings.

Linehan's departure was the latest reminder that the Vikings will never win a Super Bowl with Red McCombs as owner.

McCombs, an outsider from Texas, will never get a new stadium from Minnesota's legislators. And as long as he doesn't have a stadium deal, he won't invest properly in his team.

He'll continue to cut corners while trying to sell his team for the bloated price of $600 million. Nobody can win the Super Bowl doing business that way.

The team has been on the market since May 2002. This has to end. Either McCombs needs to sell, or the NFL needs to step in and decide whether it's healthy for one of its teams to be run in the lame-duck fashion that McCombs is running his.

The Vikings' budget for coaches and facilities is believed to be among the lowest in the league, if not the lowest. Coach Mike Tice is under contract for one more year at $1 million, which is the lowest in the league. McCombs said he won't discuss an extension for Tice until after the 2005 season.

All of Tice's assistants are working under one-year contacts. Linehan, 41, one of the brighter young NFL coaches and QB Daunte Culpepper's position coach and mentor the last three seasons, left because of the Vikings' uncertain future.

Linehan said Monday that job security was his top priority. McCombs answered him by saying the most he would get is a one-year deal.

"If it was just about the players I coach, it would be a no-brainer (to re-sign with the Vikings)," Linehan said.

If McCombs were trying to win, he'd extend the contracts of his coaches for three to five years or clean house and find coaches he has faith in. To just hang on with one-year deals screams out that McCombs is only interested in dumping the team.

Basically, the overriding factor in everything the Vikings do is based on how it will affect McCombs and his ability to sell the team. The good news for Vikings fans is it appears McCombs is becoming more serious about selling the team now that the season is over.

His group has started talking again with Arizona entrepreneur Reggie Fowler, who some believe is finally prepared to make McCombs an offer. In a move that might be connected, McCombs moved his annual post-season State of the Purple meeting with Tice from Thursday (Jan. 20) until after the Super Bowl.

Another potential buyer is Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. Taylor is interested but has said $600 million is too much for a team that doesn't have a stadium deal.

It's believed that Taylor, a Mankato, Minn., native and local entrepreneur, has a better chance to get a stadium deal. Taylor turned down an invitation to join Fowler's group last summer but has not ruled it out entirely.

Vikings fans had better hope McCombs sells soon. His miserly ways affected the team's performance this season.

While McCombs earned kudos for the Vikings being able to sign CB Antoine Winfield to a deal worth nearly $35 million, a closer look at the contract shows McCombs actually was being cheap.

In a move designed to reach the league's minimum salary cap, McCombs had his negotiators pay Winfield $10.8 million in a roster bonus rather than a signing bonus. Because it was a roster bonus, the entire amount counted toward the 2004 season. Had it been the normal signing bonus, the Vikings could have prorated the amount over the life of the contract and been able to sign another impact defensive player.

Anyone who watched the Vikings' defense this season certainly knows they needed more players like Winfield on defense.

But as long as McCombs owns the team and no stadium deal is reached, the organization will be at a serious disadvantage compared to other franchises.

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