On a team that had and has so many people that many of the hyper-critical members of the Twin Cities media can find it so easy to dislike, that couldn't be said for Frank Gilliam.
A Vikings employee for 31 years, Gilliam has been the team's draft guru and, while his duties were restricted in recent years after Dennis Green's monopolizing of power, Gilliam was given the top authority and final say on players drafted last week by the Vikings.
However, days later, Gilliam is out as of May 31, when his current contract expires, to be replaced by Rob Brzezinski as vice president of football operations and Scott Studwell as head of college scouting.
Over the years, Gilliam has been credited for uncovering several mid- and late-round gems and Saturday at the draft, coach Mike Tice fawned over Gilliam for his expertise and willingness to be a team player. But, after a meeting with team president Gary Woods, Gilliam was forced to fall on his sword, announcing his resignation.
This is a far cry from what Gilliam indicated less than a month ago. When asked by VU if players of the current era are a lot different from the "old school" days, Gilliam said personalities may change with the times, but finding a good player hasn't differed, adding that he was looking forward to the new chapter in Vikings history and planned to be a major part of it.
That was, until Woods arrived Wednesday. Rumors immediately spread that one of the contributing factors to Gilliam's outster resulted from a lack of quick movement when the Vikings allegedly had a chance to move in front of Kansas City, as talks with Dallas ran out the clock on DT Ryan Sims and the Vikings had an opportunity to move in and steal the pick. However, VU has been told by a source close to the situation that there was no connection between the two.
Gilliam has agreed to remain with the team as a "senior consultant" but will now report to Studwell instead of the other way around.
It's unfortunate that a man of Gilliam's expertise, common sense and decency has to be forced out before he was ready to go. Considering Tice's adament concern about not letting Gary Anderson go out to pasture without being allowed to be part of the process, the quick and unexplained dismissal of Gilliam seems to smack in the face of that same compassion. Perhaps nobody has meant as much to the Vikings organization for as long as Gilliam. Those who were behind his outster can take a lesson from the class and dignity with which Gilliam accepted this professional slap to the face.
VU has been told Woods has issued a teamwide order not to discuss publicly the shift in power in the front office, a dubious move more in keeping with the bunker mentality in the final years of the Denny Green regime.
All of us at VU would like to wish Gilliam the best and acknowledge the incredible contribution he has made to the Vikings organization in the four different decades he has been in the team's employ.
* The Vikings signed WR Sean Dawkins to a one-year contract for a veteran minimum of $750,000, of which only $450,000 will count against the 2002 salary cap. Dawkins, who began his career with Indianapolis, spent two years with Seattle and last season with Jacksonville, isn't expected to be in competition for a starting job heading into training camp. That means the Vikings still intend to pursue a veteran free agent, most likely after several big names are released June 1.
* One such player is Kansas City's Derrick Alexander. Contrary to some reports, he absolutely will be released June 1. Some media sources say he might be released, but, if he was still under contract, he would not be able to visit other teams -- he's scheduled for a visit with the Vikings this weekend for a physical. Earlier this month, Alexander restructured his contract to lower his salary cap number, in exchange for a $100,000 signing bonus and the guarantee that he would be released June 1 to become an unrestricted free agent.
* The Vikings' first full minicamp begins today and will be the first chance for the Vikings to see their new rookies in uniform. Surprisingly, none of the draft picks had any extended talks with the team before they were drafted and most were surprised to come to the Vikes, since they had spoken with several teams, but the Vikings were not one of them.
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