As the Vikings collapsed from 5-0 to 8-8 last year, vague whiffs of dysfunction emerged among the more tangible problems like injury after injury after injury. The father of a Vikings player who recently left the team believes that it was more than vague, and that it was more than a whiff.
Via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Riki Ellison provided via since-deleted tweet, Facebook, and phone information suggesting that problems exist within the organization.
“Exodus of their draft picks out of the Minnesota Vikings in free agency — with a new stadium, new facility — statement on toxic leadership,” Riki Ellison said via Twitter after his son, tight end Rhett Ellison, signed with the Giants.
“Do [free agents] think this program is going in the right direction and a Super Bowl contender or are they in a position to be another start-up, starting up from scratch?’’ Riki Ellison told Tomasson. “That’s why you see your veterans are leaving because they have to look at the future. They should be able to retain anybody they want.
“There is something going on, from my perspective. Why would people be leaving a brand-new facility? They got the best facility in the world. . . . That’s just not a normal thing to happen.’’
Of course, this assumes that the Vikings wanted to keep the players who left. Did they really want to keep left tackle Matt Kalil? Receiver Charles Johnson, a bright spot a few year ago, hadn’t done much since then, and he wasn’t even tendered as a restricted free agent. The others who have left include cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, linebacker Audie Cole, and punter Jeff Locke.
Regardless, Riki Ellison insists that there’s something about the team that is causing players to choose to play elsewhere.
‘That bye week was tipping point,’’ Riki Ellison wrote on Facebook, via Tomasson. “The head coach and [General Manager Rick Spielman] didn’t understand what they had and broke it, [leading to] the departure of Norv Turner, which was the red-flag indicator and the franchise has yet to recover, and the damage [is] still taking its toll. . . . There is no core offensive line, no leadership on the offense from the front seven, no running back, no No. 1 receiver and a tremendous void of lack of self-drafted developed players that were part of the best run in five years to set and lead the culture. Added to this was mentality of physical practices that continued to hurt players on the offensive line and burn out the desire of the defense to play hard when it counted most.’’
While unresolved issues definitely remain regarding the abrupt decision of Norv Turner to leave, the absence of any public or private grousing from players about the situation suggests the Riki Ellison’s comments may be influenced in large part by the team’s decision not to keep his son on the team. If/when current players begin to suggest that there are problems, then it will be time to take these issues very seriously.