June 14, 2005:
McCombs, speaking on a conference call from his San Antonio office, reminded reporters that all the offseason moves made by Minnesota were completed under his watch. After adding at least five new starters on defense, the Vikings could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
“To me, this year — this will be my team, regardless of the fact that we’re totally out of ownership,” he said. “It’s obvious that we were involved in putting this team together.”
Most of us Vikings fans snorted back in June at your all-too-typical attempt to wring another windfall out of your stint as Vikings owner. We knew the only reason the new free agent acquisitions were made was because you already had Reggie Fowler’s $20 million non-refundable deposit safely tucked into an empty Folger’s can and buried in a secret location on your ranch. As if that weren’t enough, you tried to arrange it so that all the signing bonuses for the new guys wouldn’t be paid until after the team was sold so as not to depreciate your $400 million profit.
You are, after all, the guy who wouldn’t even pay to have the central air-conditioning at the club’s headquarters repaired. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find out you smuggled your own peanuts into your owner’s suite at the Dome so you wouldn’t have to pay those high catering prices.
Nor were we shocked that when it it was time to replace Denny Green you embarked on an exhaustive, 16-hour search of possible candidates before settling on Mike Tice, the team’s offensive line coach. Tice did have one important credential, however: he was so gosh-darn excited by the opportunity to be a head coach — despite never having even been a coordinator — that he was willing to work for about one-third the going rate for NFL head-coaches. It was a match made, not in heaven, but at Sam’s Club.
For the past three seasons as the team has struggled under your ownership it was hard to tell how much of the problem was coaching and how much of it was a lack of skilled players across the roster. Of course, it didn’t help that you savored the bouquet of all those dollars you saved by staying well under the salary cap each year the way some rich folks covet a fine cognac.
But, oh, the promise of this year! Fans were overlooking, however, that your actions let Tice limp into this season as the lamest of ducks. Therefore, once Scott Linehan found out he could make nearly as much money being the coordinator for the Dolphins as Tice would make as head coach, it was impossible to attract a promising offensive-coordinator for what might be a one-year (low-paying) job. Undiscouraged, you left no stone unturned in the Winter Park parking lot in another exhaustive search and found yet another offensive line coach already under contract. Not only was he willing to take the new responsibility, but he’d keep his old job, too. I bet you loved that two-fer.
It’s not that Coach Tice doesn’t have some positive attributes. He’s much more charming and forthright than Denny Green, and while his efforts to motivate his players were mostly ham-handed, he seemed to know a bit about the game and it was hard not to root for the big lug. And, yeah the team has had injuries and played some tough teams so far. But I’ve got to draw the line on a guy who said repeatedly, “This is my team. This is the team I built,” and who now says “We’re still trying to find our identity.” Finding this team’s identity ought to be as easy for him as finding his own backside with one hand; instead it’s looking like a game of two-handed blind man’s bluff.
Red, with your used car selling background you know better than anyone else that you get what you pay for. The irony in this situation is that this is the team that you got paid for, but you were absolutely right back in June. It’s your team, Red. You’ve earned it.