Personnel moves driving team's success

Over the past four years the Vikings have made a series of bold personnel moves, most of which have paid off and provided the foundation for what has become an impressive 10-1 start this season.

There are a lot of people who deserve credit for the team's nice 10-1 start to the season, certainly beginning with head coach Brad Childress, who's always been the front man for criticism by the rube nation in Vikings Land.

You can't argue with the results that Childress has guided in taking over a franchise with serious character and off-field perception problems, not to mention a team that had been assembled on the cheap by the previous owner.

It hasn't been an overnight success, but the progress has been steady, measurable and sure. From a 6-10 record in 2006 to 8-8 in 2007 to 10-6 and a division title last season, Childress has the Vikings squarely on the doorstep of taking the next step forward in competing for the conference title in 2009.

The pieces have fallen into place largely because of a series of critical personnel decisions - many that drew extensive criticism by others - that have generally been somewhere between solid and absolutely golden.

As the team's roster sits right now, 41 of 53 players on the active roster (77 percent) have been added since Childress took over. They haven't hit on all of their moves, but they've hit the jackpot on several:

QB Brett Favre - Looks like a no-brainer now, but not everyone was on board with this decision at the time. Schism? Favre has been the anti-schism en route to a MVP-caliber season thus far.

RB Adrian Peterson - Another no-brainer now, but there were six other teams who took someone else ahead of Minnesota, including JaMarcus Russell and Gaines Adams, both significant busts to this point. At the time, some were concerned about a shoulder injury. Still others were shocked when the Vikings passed on quarterback Brady Quinn at the time.

DE Jared Allen - Despite previous league-imposed suspensions for alcohol-related issues, the Vikings gave up a high first-round pick, two third-round picks, and a six-year, $72.36 million contract that included $15.5 million in guaranteed money to acquire Allen in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.

WR Percy Harvin - Lasted until the Vikings' pick at No. 22 this past spring due to off-field concerns, but Childress went the extra mile to develop a comfort with Harvin and stuck his neck out for a kid who's on track for NFL Rookie of the Year honors. If the 2009 NFL Draft were re-held today, Harvin would easily go top five.

OG Steve Hutchinson - The Vikings "overpaid" at the time for a guard and opened the whole poison pill can of worms in prying Hutch from the Seattle Seahawks, who screwed up by not placing the franchise tag on the perennial Pro Bowl left guard.

WR Sidney Rice - A second-round pick in 2007, taken one slot ahead of USC's Dwayne Jarrett, who most "draftniks" liked better at the time. Rice is currently second in the NFL behind only Indy's Reggie Wayne with 964 receiving yards so far this season and appears on the verge of a Pro Bowl berth.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - Another overpriced (at the time) and largely unknown free agent acquisition in 2007, who after an erratic first season has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end and just set a team record for TD catches by a tight end with eight on the season.

Beyond these examples, there are several other key personnel decisions that have proven sound over the same time span.

The first free agent crop under Childress included LB Ben Leber, K Ryan Longwell and RB Chester Taylor - all solid, solid acquisitions.

WR Bernard Berrian has been slowed by hamstring problems this season, but he showed last season that he adds a vertical dimension to the passing game and can make defenses pay if they leave him one-on-one.

Draft picks LB Chad Greenway (No. 1 in 2006), CB Cedric Griffin (No. 2 in 2006), OT Phil Loadholt (No. 2 in 2009), C John Sullivan (No. 6 in 2008) and S Tyrell Johnson (No. 2 in 2008) have become very capable to quality starters.

It's hard to argue with any of the decisions the team has made in the players they have re-signed to keep them in Viking purple: CB Antoine Winfield, NT Pat Williams, OT Bryant McKinnie, LB E.J. Henderson, DT Kevin Williams, TE Jim Kleinsasser, OG Anthony Herrera, P Chris Kluwe and LB Heath Farwell to name a few.

Their college/pro scouts have also found some quality contributors in PR Darius Reynaud, CB Benny Sapp, S Eric Frampton, S Husain Abdullah, DT Jimmy Kennedy, DT Fred Evans, LB Kenny Onatolu and WR Greg Lewis.

The jury is still out on a few players, and there have been some misses. But the core of this team was built primarily around some key players for whom someone stuck his neck out.

Childress rightly deserves the credit he gets, but the role of Rick Spielman (VP Player Rick SpielmanPersonnel, pictured at right), Scott Studwell (Director of College Scouting), George Paton (Director of Player Personnel) and the team's entire personnel department can also share in the satisfaction of what they have built here together.

Spielman has brought together a talented team of scouts and created a healthy process that includes all opinions and healthy and appropriate involvement by the coaches.

The results are showing showing up this season on the football field.

Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Vikings Update web site or magazine, click here.


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