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Spielman, Vikings focusing ‘heavily on the draft’

USA TODAY Sports Minnesota Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — The early days of the latest general manager-coach relationship were eye-opening as much as refreshing.

For the ninth time in franchise history, the Minnesota Vikings have a first-time first-year coach, but Mike Zimmer’s experience is standing out at the team’s Eden Prairie facility.

In his first days on the job, the well-respected but demanding Zimmer had broken down on film the player traits he wants at every position.

“What type of guys he wants for the system we’re going to run? It’s a lot different with traits he’s looking for with what we’re going to run,” general manager Rick Spielman said.

The team talked to eight candidates in seven days. In his first 30 days with the franchise, Zimmer has shown himself to be intelligent, polished and anything but gruff or abrasive, as reports indicated when the longtime defensive coordinator was passed over for four previous head-coaching jobs.

“I don’t know why all these other teams passed on him, but I’m sure glad they did,” Spielman said. “It’s the right fit at the right time.”

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner got in on the act too. He already established 10 plays designed specifically for scintillating second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, a 2013 first-round pick the previous coaching staff didn’t maximize.

“He is a unique talent,” Spielman said. “Not only because of his speed but his movement skills and his size. We traded Percy Harvin away last year and we wanted to get that dynamic back.”

Yet management sets out on another offseason with the same glaring hole at quarterback.

The Vikings are making an appointment with representatives of Matt Cassel during the combine this week. Cassel voided the 2014 season on his contract and a $3.7 million salary. He could return and was endorsed last week by running back Adrian Peterson as his preferred starter. That doesn’t mean the Vikings won’t kick the tires on other veterans, including Michael Vick, Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez, if he’s released by the New York Jets.

Minnesota is interested in bringing Cassel back while looking at “everything” out there. Spielman said the quarterback class is deep, with many flavors.

The Vikings will focus “heavily on the draft” with Turner piloting the process. His input is viewed as significant by Spielman who was with the Miami Dolphins organization when Turner was with the team and said he considers Turner an expert at the position.

“Christian Ponder is the only quarterback we have under contract last year,” Spielman said. “The encouraging thing way, he came out of that dip and played very well out of that dip. ... He just hasn’t been that consistent. He has shown flashes of it.”

Ponder could return but it would take a surprising set of circumstances to make that reality.

“I saw what Norv did what Jay Feeley in Miami,” said Spielman, who also pointed to Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer exceeding expectations with the Cleveland Browns in 2013. “(Turner) has a history of getting quarterbacks to not only play very good, but beyond what maybe you thought.”

Spielman said the Vikings will not force drafting a quarterback with the eighth overall pick and said he would consider dealing. That would be nothing new. Minnesota made trades to acquire a second first-round pick each of the past two drafts.

“I would love to move down in the draft, just because of how deep this draft class is,” he said. “But if we feel that strongly about a guy at No. 8, we’ll take him.”