Front office, owners feeling good

The Vikings have spent the past four years under Zygi Wilf's ownership trying to build a Super Bowl champion. They got the first piece of that puzzle Sunday with a division title, which brought a lot of gratitude going to different people involved in the process.

Before the postgame speech and before the hugs in the locker room following Sunday's win over the New York Giants, Zygi Wilf was running onto the field, throwing his arms in the air and just looking for someone to hug.

He ran. He jumped. He even screamed.

And, finally, after about 10 minutes to soak in his first NFC North crown as an NFL owner, Wilf was calm – yet beaming brightly – in the locker room.

"All the emotions from this season and the season before were just released – a great feeling," Wilf said.

"When you are fighting for your division and play the way we did, to come from behind and kick that field goal out there with the clock running out, it can't get any better than that. It's exciting. We are very proud of everyone here and the whole organization. We are especially happy for our fans who endured many years of struggle and frustration, but finally we jumped that hurdle and won our first NFC North division title. So we are very excited to be where we are at right now and we'll move on to the postseason."

The Vikings will face the Eagles at 3:30 p.m. Central Sunday at the Metrodome in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It will be their first playoff appearance since 2004 and their first as a division winner since 2000. Wilf bought the team in 2005 and has restructured the front office, hired his own coach, Brad Childress, and hired his own vice president of player personnel, Rick Spielman.

"When you bring pieces together, I think it takes time for everybody to gel and get to know each other, and that's the patience that you have to have because you know the ability that you evaluate and that we all evaluate, and then it's just a matter of getting into the system and getting them comfortable with each other," Spielman said. "I think you've seen a lot of the guys as we went through the season kind of start to gel and progress. Hopefully that will continue into the playoffs and even into future years."

One of those acquisitions was wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who had a 54-yard touchdown against the Giants on Sunday and led NFL receivers with at least 35 catches with a 20.1-yard average.

"I think he showed that he has big-play ability on the field," Spielman said. "This came up throughout the year with big plays when we needed it. I think he'll continue to grow as he becomes familiar with the system and gets more and more involved."

Berrian, Adrian Peterson and Ryan Longwell all helped provide Wilf with his top moment as the Vikings' owner, a 20-19 win over the team that Wilf grew up cheer for.

"For me, this is the best. It can't get any better than this – well, I hope it can get better this, but to win our division right now when we had to is a gift and we are looking for better things to come," Wilf said.

"To win our division, and it so happened that they played against the Giants, but we're very happy to be in the postseason. I'm very proud of these guys, and I'm very happy for the coaching staff and the guys and the fans. Especially the fans, because the fans really wanted this bad and they saw what happened last week and they wanted to be sure that we came out and won this game and not to put it on anybody else, and we did that. The way that we did it just shows the character of our ballclub."

Even some of the players could appreciate Wilf's giddiness with the win.

"Just seeing the owner, Zygi, with a big smile on his face, it was emotional," Peterson said. "That all comes back to the season we had. We continue to fight and play together as a team. We made the big plays when we needed it. We knew just coming into the game that the opportunity was there, we were controlling our own destiny."

Spielman said he didn't have quite the same reaction as Wilf, but he, too, could feel some satisfaction with the win.

"I'm pretty calm. Good or bad, I try to stay even-keel, but it's exciting. I'm most excited (for) the Wilfs and what a passion they have and how much they want to win," Spielman said. "To give them at least a division title so far is something that you really feel good that you were able to be a part of that, to get them what they want."

While the rest of the organization was ready to get back to business and prepare for the playoffs, Wilf said he would take some more time to enjoy what his money helped buy.

"I'm just savoring this moment right now and just going to enjoy this," he said. "Coach and everyone else can get back to the business of football. I'm just going to enjoy this moment."


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