Ownership, Coaches And Rumors Addressed

The last two days have been loaded with Vikings news. From Red McCombs to Randy Moss to Mike Tice to the free agents the Vikings are considering to the rumors being squashed and confirmed, the whirlwind continues.

Red McCombs started out Thursday's series of late-morning press conferences with a long monologue, covering everything from the Randy Moss trade to the Reggie Fowler ownership group. But his mention of giving serious consideration to firing head coach Mike Tice during the later stages of the 2004 season will headline the day.

"There were some things that weren't coming together" at the end of last year, McCombs said before dropping the nugget that he contemplated firing Tice when Moss was coming back from what amounted to a five-game layoff from a hamstring injury.

"During the time Randy was injured and out I began thinking, this thing is probably, if we don't really get somewhere this year, Randy is going to be so disappointed when the season is over," McCombs said. "We're going to be disappointed, and I began to think, what could I do to make something happen there and I gave very serious thought to replacing Mike about the time that Randy was coming off the injury.

"My thought was that Randy had had two really good coaches in his seven years there and here we were nearing the end of the seventh year and we really had not accomplished much. I knew that he was disappointed and certainly we were disappointed. I'm still thinking how can I make this thing work to where we'll get that spark, the spark that comes from a player like Randy. There were no instances or issues between him and Mike or me and Mike or me and him and Mike."

He followed up with more of his thinking on the Tice decision.

"What we were doing was not working. We had all done all that we could do, Mike and everyone else," McCombs said. "Obviously, in this business when you look and you say, ‘Well, maybe change coaches and you'd get a spark or something will happen.' I seriously considered making that change to have that effect about the time that Randy was coming off his injury because I fully believe the team we had last year was capable of winning the National Conference."

McCombs said every one of the owners from the National Football Conference thanked him at the league meetings Wednesday for trading Moss to Oakland and out of the conference, especially those owners in the NFC North.

McCombs also called the decision to trade Moss "totally an organizational move."

"As far as getting value for Randy, I knew we couldn't get value for Randy — if we'd have gotten twice what we got — because you can't measure the ability and potential that is in that player," McCombs said.

So, why trade Moss?

In a nutshell, the answers kept revolving on not getting enough production out of him.

"I felt like Randy had the ability to score on every play," McCombs said. "Randy is a guy I feel is a five-touchdown player in every game."

Neither McCombs nor Tice gave any more specifics on the move, but each gave indications that the team needed to move in another direction.

For Tice, that means getting more defensive players.

"The goal is not to be the highest paid coach, not to be the most explosive offense, but to be the world champions," Tice said.

In order to do that, Tice said, the team needs to be a top-10 defense in the league.


McCombs said NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue opened yesterday's owners meeting talking about the sale of the Vikings. Tagliabue told the owners he has met with Reggie Fowler, whose partnership has entered a purchase agreement with McCombs. Tagliabue has discussed Fowler's resume and finances with him and, according to McCombs, Tagliabue "was very confident with all of that."

McCombs said Fowler did not know about the organization's intention to trade Moss when the Arizona businessman agreed to purchase the team, but Fowler was informed a few days before the trade was agreed to.

When asked about a rumor that two of Fowler's partners are talking about pulling out of his ownership group, McCombs said he hadn't heard that and thought he'd know about that if there were any truth to it. "I fully expect that Mr. Fowler's deal will be consummated," McCombs said.

Even so, it didn't sound like Fowler's input would carry much weight with McCombs until the sale is approved by the NFL owners, which wouldn't be completed until at least March 20.

"The operation of the club, which I know is an issue and always should be, (is a) very, very straightforward agreement with Reggie that all of the decisions will be made by us — period," McCombs said. "That's not to say that I wouldn't give him input on certain major issues, and I certainly contacted him to tell him on Randy's situation that we were in serious discussions, but that was some several days before a deal was actually done."

McCombs said he was impressed with his front office people, who took the team from $28 million in dead cap money and "way over" the salary cap when he bought the team to no dead money now and being the NFL team furthest under the salary cap. He wouldn't address the contention that agents felt he was deferring signing bonuses until the summer to avoid paying out of his own pocket, saying he was going to run the team as if he will own it next year.

Sound like double-talk? There's more.

McCombs also said if his deal with Fowler doesn't get approved, he'd move on and try to sell the team to someone else. "I'll keep it until I find somebody else to buy it. If I find somebody else the next day, I'm going to sell it," McCombs said.

"I'm a trading guy. My whole life since I was 10 years old has been trading things," he said in relation to Moss, but it also seems to fit the discussion of selling the team.


The Vikings signed Pat Williams, and McCombs applauded the front office for getting a deal done. According to Tice, the Vikings were in a competition with other teams to sign Williams.

The Vikings will continue to look for other value picks in free agency, and McCombs said he will continue to operate in the free-agent market as if the team will remain his.

"I have to look at this as if I'm going to own the team from now on," McCombs said. "You've got to remember this is not the first team I've ever sold. I've been through this before. We don't know when these things are finalized or if they're going to be finalized."


  • McCombs said that progress was being made on the players' collective bargaining agreement. The NFL and its players association is staying ahead of the curve, trying to negotiate an extension before the current agreement runs out in 2007.

  • The Vikings were entertaining Baltimore Ravens free-agent wide receiver Travis Taylor today … or was it the other way around? Taylor's agent approached the Vikings to see if they had any interest in signing him. Without Moss, the Vikings would likely sign Taylor if they feel they'd get good value out of the contract. Tice said if Taylor signs it wouldn't preclude the team from drafting a wide receiver with one of their top picks.

  • Tice stressed that the Vikings would still have a good offense without Moss. "I'm an offensive coach …" he said. "We will have an excellent offense."

  • On linebacker Napolean Harris, acquired along with two draft picks in the Randy Moss trade, Tice said: "This guy is a first- and second-down beast." Tice confirmed that Harris will play on the strong side, but another Vikings official said Harris brings additional value in being able to play middle linebacker if necessary. According to Tice, Harris wants to play on the strong side, where he will play closer to the line of scrimmage.

  • While the Vikings offered linebacker Antonio Pierce a contract, Tice said he felt Pierce and his agent "didn't give us a chance to get in the game" in negotiations.

  • Vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski gave no credence to the rumor that the Vikings were shopping Michael Bennett and a first-day draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for receiver Anquan Boldin.

  • A rumor that might have more substance is the Vikings' interest in Miami cornerback Patrick Surtain.


    Other random McCombs quotes for consideration:

  • "I didn't accomplish what I set out to do and that's why I'm leaving. I definitely made no headway on the stadium and that is the issue that takes me out of the NFL."

  • "You can look at it one way and say, ‘Well, in the end I decided that we're better to be with Mike (Tice) than to take another way of trying to see Randy's involvement in the club.'"

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