EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Fair or not to now-fired coach Leslie Frazier, the Minnesota Vikings have had a glaring void at quarterback since he was hired.
General manager Rick Spielman said he's confident he will solve the problem, but he also acknowledged Monday his prior lack of success at doing so.
"I haven't got it right yet," Spielman said. "We've worked as hard as we could to try to get that right."
Spielman has had full charge of the roster for the last two seasons and been a chief decision-maker on the draft with the Vikings for seven years. He said he takes full responsibility for the personnel decisions, which include taking Christian Ponder with 12th overall pick in 2011, that shaped the roster Frazier was given. Ponder was one of seven quarterbacks to start at least one game in Frazier's three-plus seasons.
Spielman also had an underwhelming record in Miami, where in his time running the personnel department he also failed to deliver a trustworthy starter at the sport's most critical position. His most-maligned move was to trade a second-round draft pick and and invest a three-year contract in A.J. Feeley, who struggled in 2004 for the Dolphins.
First, Spielman has to hire Frazier's replacement. Then he must turn his focus toward the market and the draft, with the importance of procuring at least a solid long-term starter as pressing as ever. The Vikings finished 5-10-1, and Matt Cassel either started or finished all five of the victories. Twice, he relieved an injured Ponder.
Ponder has one year left on his contract, as does Cassel, who can opt out of his early to become a free agent. Josh Freeman, signed in October for an awkward midseason tryout, almost certainly won't return after taking one turn on the carousel and producing the worst passing performance of the year for a team that has had many bad ones.
Ponder said he wasn't sure whether the Vikings would keep him, trade him or cut him. He said he thought Cassel would probably be named the starter this spring, assuming both he and the team want him back. Ponder also said he wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings draft a quarterback. They'll have the eighth pick in the first round.
Spielman said the new coaching staff will be heavily involved in this process.
"I think I would expect that once a decision is made, it will be probably to stick with that guy and not have what happened this year," Ponder said.
Ah, this year. From Ponder to Cassel to Freeman to Ponder again to finally Cassel, that carousel kept spinning.
"I would never want to say, 'Hey, you have to play that guy or you have to play this guy.' That's not my role," Spielman said, denying he forced Frazier to start Freeman two weeks after he was signed or go back to Ponder for more evaluation after that.
In the end, the influence on and blame for another lackluster season throwing the ball by the Vikings is irrelevant.
"Every team is always going to be looking for that franchise quarterback until you actually get one," Spielman said. "And you're going to continually grind away until you finally hit on one."