Foley finagled a bedrock draft

Former Vikings personnel boss Fran Foley only lasted a few months on the job, but his 2006 draft produced some solid starters. His personnel touch has proved to be better than his personal touch.

In Vikings history, Fran Foley is remembered in the same general vein as Matt Foley – Chris Farley's character on "Saturday Night Live" who, for all we know, is living in a van down by the river.

Fran Foley, who spent a scant couple of months with the Vikings in winter and spring of 2006, may have looked a little like Fred Flintstone, but there was nothing about him that made anyone at Winter Park say, "Yabba dabba doo." As the Vikings begin the defense of their first NFC North Division title, perhaps Foley should get a little more credit than he does.

For those who have forgotten F2, he was brought in from San Diego to be the de facto general manager – a job that was quickly given to Rick Spielman shortly after the 2006 draft. An extremely self-confident man, it seemed clear on draft weekend that there was something of a problem between Foley and head coach Brad Childress as to just who was in charge of the war room.

After being hired on Jan. 26, Foley was fired May 3, just days after the draft. The initial reason given was the Foley had embellished his resume, claiming to have been an assistant coach at the Citadel, Rutgers and Colgate when in fact he was a graduate assistant. He also claimed to have played four years of college football at Framingham State College when he actually played two. That was the public reason initially given. The truth, it would seem, lied elsewhere.

In the weeks and months that followed, word came out that Foley had been verbally abusive to the staff and was a very difficult person to work with and work for. He wasn't exactly a "people person." In the end, all he had to show for his brief time with the Vikings was the 2006 draft. With three years of hindsight as our guide, perhaps Foley wasn't so bad after all.

In his one draft, Foley and the Vikings drafted six players. Of those six, five of them became starters. First-round pick Chad Greenway played at a Pro Bowl-caliber level last year. The team liked second-round pick Cedric Griffin enough that they recently gave him a five-year contract extension worth about $25 million. Fellow second-rounders Ryan Cook and Tarvaris Jackson both became starters and, while neither has panned out to be star players, both have essentially lived up to the expectations that the team had for them and the organizational confidence in the two hasn't wavered – both will be competing for starting jobs again this year. On Day Two, the Vikings selected Ray Edwards in the fourth round, who won the starting job opposite Jared Allen and looks again to be a mainstay on the left side of the defensive line.

Add to that a trade that was made in which the Vikings swapped fourth-round picks and their pick in the sixth round to the Eagles to acquire Artis Hicks and you have six starters that have been produced from a single draft – arguably a franchise record.

The only player from that draft who didn't end up with the team for more than a year was safety Greg Blue, taken in the fifth round. Despite that, there were many who wanted to see Blue remain with the team since he had the size and strength to potentially be a difference-maker in the secondary.

Say what you want to about Foley's interpersonal skills (or lack thereof). Teams are built through the draft and the Vikings can point to the 2006 draft as being one of the more productive in franchise history. They didn't have a premium pick like the drafts that produced Adrian Peterson or Bryant McKinnie, but they walked away from it with six players who have been starters for extended periods over the three years since.

Foley may be living in a van down by the river (or a house near the ocean in San Diego), but his brief tenure with the team wasn't all horrible. Vikings fans may actually owe him a debt of gratitude for his role in one of the better drafts in recent memory.

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