Characteristics of a “fear-based” organization…
Respect is an interesting thing in the world of professional sports. Because a certain respect is earned on the playing field. Their skills put them above the rest, so they earn respect. For others, it’s earned behind the scenes with things like trust and loyalty. For others, it is an authoritative asset. Ordered, requested and expected.
For this reason, respect is not always accompanied by admiration and appreciation.
After head coach Mike Zimmer left on Monday morning, it quickly became apparent that those who worked with him regularly respected him. The organization released a statement, players spoke out and shared their thoughts, and we got to learn a bit more about the behind-the-scenes relationship.
And then Eric Kendricks gave it a name. Joining local media via ZOOM to discuss the end of the season and recent head coach and general manager changes, Kendricks made a sweeping statement that simply couldn’t be ignored.
Asked about the culture within the team lately, Kendricks said, “I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go.”
It’s a pretty damning statement towards the outgoing regime, but coming from a veteran who usually keeps a tight lid on such things, it’s the closest real insight into the feelings inside we could get.
So what does a “fear-based organization” look like? We may also have had a little insight into this from yesterday’s statements and interviews.
You see when someone is fired, in the days that follow you are unlikely to hear those left behind torching the outgoing party. Kind words are shared, appreciation is shown, we’ve all seen it before. But then you can read between the lines and learn even more about what the situation could have looked like by changing the way you look at it. The change in perspective is necessary because it does not come across as a direct criticism of the person, but rather as a characteristic of what they are looking for in the next coaching candidate.
Team co-owner Mark Wilf joined local media in a 20-minute conference call Monday. During that time, he’s used words like ‘collaborator’, ‘communicator’, ‘culture’ and ‘strong leader’ nine times to describe what they’ll be looking for in the new head coach and general managers. In fact, that was the message he was ready to share because less than a minute into the conversation, those words were spoken in the prepared opening statement.
Players echoed those sentiments and their desires for future leadership during their timeshare too…
“[Having] everyone lined up… and pushing the ship in the same direction–Brian O’Neill
“[You want] a culture where communication is emphasized– Eric Kendricks
“The more we can all understand as coaches and players that we are together in this situation, I think that would go a long way to making it a better place.–Brian O’Neill
“The best coaches I’ve had are the ones that made me a better person off the pitch and people that I would want to surround myself with and see them as an ear that I can talk to and get things out of my way.– Eric Kendricks.
It seems to me that the Vikings, under the previous leadership, had problems with communication and collaboration from top to bottom. And in hindsight, it shouldn’t be surprising, we’ve heard these things before.
We’ve heard that Zimmer’s approach to gamers has gone wrong in the past. We’ve seen his approach to his assistant coaches kick some of them out in the past. We had heard that when it came to personnel decisions, Spielman and Zimmer weren’t exactly in tune with everything. Rumor has it that one part was more excited about having Kirk Cousins than the other. It was also rumored that there were defensive players that Zimmer needed to get through the draft, you know not all sides were working together well.
We know Mike Zimmer was all business, and sometimes business is mean. He didn’t hide it very well.
It seems to me that these are the kinds of things that everyone wants to avoid next time. Sure, that’s a bit of an idyllic desire, but that’s what you’re supposed to be aiming for. If that’s the basis of hiring, if that’s what we’ll call square one, well, maybe that’s a good place to start and evolve.
Aj Mansour is a member of The Power Trip Morning Show to KFAN and work for iHeartMedia and the viking radio network. He is also a Senior Writer for VikingsTerritory.com & KFAN.com. Be sure to follow him on social media for the latest Vikings news and great opinion – @AjKFAN
The Minnesota Vikings aren’t making the playoffs this year — they were knocked out by the rival Packers a few weeks ago — but silver linings do exist.
An era of change is underway, as evidenced by the departures of the team’s key leaders, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.
The next scheme – research is ongoing – will also inherit two first-team All-Pro football players. And the count could probably have been Three Men.
The NFL announced first-team All-Pro rosters on Wednesday, placing two Vikings on the team with running back Kene Nwangwu and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Kendricks, a player expected to return with the Vikings in 2022, has actually had a down year by his high standards. Through Focus on professional footballKendricks scored 58.8, ranking 32n/a of 88 qualified linebackers. In 2020, Kendricks’ PFF score was 82.6. Thus, his rating dropped by 29% in a single season.
However, Kendricks approached people like crazy. He racked up 143 tackles, the ninth most in the company. Kendricks and the Vikings certainly won’t complain about the All-Pro designation, but the award may have come in large part because of his reputation. See: Xavier Rhodes as a Pro Bowler in 2019 despite an abysmal 46.4 rating from PFF.
Kendricks teammate Kene Nwangwu was spectacular in his rookie season. His All-Pro trophy was certainly justified. Nwangwu became healthy in November and quickly scored two kick return touchdowns upon his arrival – a rare feat for the Vikings following Cordarrelle Patterson’s exodus from the franchise in 2017.
In total, Nwangwu returned 18 kicks for 32.2 yards per return – NFL highs. And that’s why the man is now an All-Pro.
On a negative note for Minnesota, Justin Jefferson made not receive the All-Pro distinction. He was pushed by Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp and former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson took note, obviously angered by the perceived snub.
Jefferson scored more yards than Chase in 2021, but Chase had three more touchdowns. For voters, the extra touchdowns made the difference. Also, Adams and Kupp absolutely deserved the recognition. The decision was up to Chase or Jefferson, leaving the Vikings wide receiver on the outside to look inside.
In the Spielman-Zimmer era, from 2014 to 2021, the Vikings drafted three first-team All-Pro players: Kendricks, Nwangwu and Stefon Diggs.
Jefferson is a lock for second-team All-Pro honors. He won the same title last year in his first season.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, airing every Wednesday with Raun Saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).