Is McCombs Looking at Plan B for Vikings?

Is Red McCombs looking at the possibility of the Vikings moving to San Antonio? That's what several NFL insiders discussed at the Super Bowl.

Red McCombs has been insistent that he doesn't want to move the Vikings and doesn't want to sell, but has claimed that the current stadium conditions won't allow much of an alternative if a new stadium deal isn't struck.

VU has been following up on a story we first heard on Monday about discussions among some high-ranking team officials in New Orleans over the weekend and their suggestion that the hiring of Mike Tice is a contingency plan in the event the Vikings can't get a stadium deal done.

Apparently the discussion first centered on why McCombs would hire Tice, who has never been a coordinator at any level, as his new head coach instead of what appeared to be a long list of former NFL head coaches and top assistants for successful teams.

The answer, according to the NFL sources, is that McCombs was burned on the Denny Green buyout and didn't want to be saddled with another Steve Spurrier-type contract if the team can't get a stadium deal done and bails out on Minnesota.

Tice is the lowest-paid coach in the NFL and, if the worst case scenario came about, the talk is that McCombs could easily eat the remainder of Tice's contract, move to San Antonio and hire his pal Mack Brown from the University of Texas as his new head coach.

Speculation or reality? VU doubted the first mention we got of the story, but, as the circle of questioners grows, the same story is being repeated. This could all be made moot if the Vikings and University of Minnesota get a joint stadium proposal through the Legislature or if McCombs sells out the team to local investors to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.

While none of our sources said that this is some sort of master plan by McCombs, they did acknowledge that McCombs is a businessman and is looking at all of his options, and the hiring of Tice accomplishes two things -- he's a popular coach with the players on the team and he's convenient to have if Red needs a contingency plan and relocation.

* U.S. News and World Report has a story in this week's issue about several NFL players being swindled out of millions by an Ohio investor who took many of them, including Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson, for a ride. One name mentioned is former Viking Robert Smith, who may have been taken for more than $1 million. Neither Smith nor his agent have confirmed or denied the magazine story to VU.
* The Houston Texans are only a couple of weeks away from adding several players to their roster, but, from what VU is being told by one of our sources close to the preparation, the Texans expect to only take about 15 players in the expansion draft and, as of now, no Vikings are expected to be on that list unless the team has a change of heart after looking over the available players in the free agent market. The Texans must select between 30 and 42 players in the expansion draft or a fewer number of players with total salaries of 38 percent of the salary cap, and the way the expansion list is shaping up, that "fewer number" clause is a likely scenario, as five or six top players could put them at 38 percent.

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