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Mark Wilf says Vikings can be winners soon


This news story was published on January 6, 2012.
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Sid Hartman, Star Tribune, Minneapolis –

Looking at the Vikings operations under the ownership of the Wilfs, President Mark Wilf is responsible for the team’s football operations while older brother Zygi, the team chairman, is concentrating on getting a stadium built.

In Thursday’s column, we talked to Zygi Wilf about the stadium, so for this column we will talk football with Mark.

He is confident the Vikings will be back fighting for the NFC North title in 2012 after finishing 3-13 and last in the division this season.

“We want long-term success, but it’s a ‘win now’ league, and we want to win,” Mark Wilf said. “… There’s no reason we can’t be back where we were just a short time ago, on top of the division and getting to where we want to be.”

Wilf emphasized that every effort will be made to make the club competitive next year. He talked about how hard it was to stomach a season that saw the Vikings tie for their worst record ever.

“Very tough, very tough, it’s tough to lose for ourselves, for everyone in the organization and particularly for our fans,” Wilf said. “We’re not going to sit quietly after a 3-13 record. We’re going to do everything we can to get it right.

“Yes, free agency is going to be a part of it, but again, it’s more than one thing. We have to evaluate our staff, but certainly, free agency, we’re open to that being a part of it. But again, we’ve never hesitated from doing whatever it’s going to take to bring a winner to the Minnesota Vikings and our fans.”

The Vikings have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, but Wilf said he likes the quantity of picks the team has, too.

“Never mind the position of the draft, we’d like to be at the bottom of the draft in terms of position, obviously, but we will have 10 picks this year,” he said. “We will have a lot of draft picks, a lot of talent coming in free agency. In this league, teams can flip from losing to winning in a very quick way.”

Wilf also said the appointment of Rick Spielman as general manager will bring a winning organizational formula back to the team.

“Over the past several months, 1/8creating a GM has3/8 been something that we’ve been analyzing and thinking about, and we gave it a lot of thought. Knowing Rick and the kind of work ethic and way he goes about things, we feel confident that he’s the right man for the job and we made that decision,” Wilf said.

While Spielman has the final say on personnel, Wilf said he believes there will be no problem with the GM and coach Leslie Frazier getting along.

“What’s been encouraging to us is Coach and Rick have had a good relationship these past couple of years,” he said. “I’m confident they’re going to be working very closely as they have in the past.”

Reasons for 0-3 start

There is no doubt that the Gophers men’s basketball team would be 3-0 rather 0-3 in Big Ten play had it not lost 6-8 standout forward Trevor Mbakwe for the season because of a knee injury.

And there would have been a chance for Mo Walker to help out in place of Mbakwe, but it looks as if the 6-10 sophomore, still recovering after suffering his own knee injury in December 2010, will be redshirted this season.

Most coaches won’t release players who are under scholarship, but Gophers coach Tubby Smith has been too lenient in my opinion.

You have the case of Devoe Joseph, who would be a senior this year. He scored 30 points for Oregon in Thursday’s 78-67 victory over Stanford and leads the Ducks in scoring with a 15.2 average. There’s also Justin Cobbs, who left here after his freshman year and is averaging 12.8 points for California.

Then there was Colton Iverson, released from his scholarship in March. He left for Colorado State and is putting in a transfer year but would have been a big plus on a depleted frontcourt this year.

Smith did everything he could to keep Royce White, but he wound up transferring to Iowa State, where on Wednesday he led the Cyclones to a big victory over Texas and is the big reason his team is 11-3.

The trouble with Smith is that he is too good a guy. He didn’t have to grant those releases, but he did. Joseph, Cobbs and Iverson would have made this team a lot better. And the presence of White would have made the Gophers a Big Ten title contender without a doubt.

Jottings

• Once the University of Minnesota Board of Regents gives its OK, invitations will be sent out to architects to work on the design of the new Gophers baseball stadium. The Gophers released their 2012 schedule Thursday, and it includes 39 home games: 38 at the Metrodome, one at Target Field and none at Siebert Field. They have 27 consecutive games at the Dome from Feb. 24 to April 3, a year after playing all their March games in either Arizona or California due to the Metrodome roof collapse.

• On Wednesday night, while Lionel Hollins was coaching the Grizzlies against the Timberwolves at Target Center, his son Austin was playing with the Gophers at Williams Arena acoss town.

• The Vikings coaching staff might get an opportunity to coach in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and thus get an inside chance to scout for the upcoming draft. The NFL determines which two coaching staffs work the game.

• Fans who watched the Rose Bowl on television had a chance to see on the sidelines one No. 19, Eric Dungy, son of Tony Dungy and a redshirting receiver on the Oregon team that beat Wisconsin. Tony noted that as a Gophers quarterback, he spent four years here with no Rose Bowl opportunity, while his son got the chance as a freshman.

• Local basketball fans will get a chance to watch Gophers recruit Wally Ellenson of Rice Lake, Wis., when his team faces Duluth East at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center. … Former Gopher Jamal Abu-Shamala, who played for a period in Jordan, played for Palestine in the Pan Arab Games in December and was named to the all-tournament second team.

• Nick Bjugstad finished with a team-high four goals along with two assists in six games for the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Alberta. Fellow Gophers forward Kyle Rau had three goals and two assists. … Gophers recruit Hudson Fasching of Apple Valley had four goals and two assists in five games for Team USA at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Russia beat the Americans 7-4 for the gold medal Wednesday in Windsor, Ontario.

• Former Gophers receiver Eric Decker had a great season, leading the Broncos in receptions (44), receiving yards (612) and touchdowns (nine). He also tied for fourth in the AFC in receiving TDs with eight. Denver plays host to Pittsburgh on Sunday in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

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One Response to Mark Wilf says Vikings can be winners soon

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    Larry Reply Report comment

    January 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    No dis-respect intended but, I have been hearing how the Queens can be winners for 50 years and I’m still waiting. The problem is with the top management and the owners. They won’t do what is required to let them win. It is a shame because there are a lot of loyal fans who would love it if they won the big one just once.