Former star receiver Ahmad Rashad calls Vikings’ firings ‘good moves’
Former Minnesota Vikings star receiver Ahmad Rashad attended the team’s 31-17 victory over Chicago in Sunday’s season finale. He sat in a suite at U.S Bank Stadium, where his name is on display for being inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor in 2017.
Rashad was reminded that exactly 45 years prior to Sunday, on Jan. 9, 1977, the Vikings made their last Super Bowl appearance. Rashad caught three passes for 53 yards that day in a 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI.
“Well, 45 years, that’s a long time,” Rashad said in a phone interview from his home in Jupiter, Fla. “Holy smokes. It’s been 45 years since we’ve been back to a Super Bowl, and that’s not right.”
With that in mind, Rashad said he is supportive of the moves the Vikings made Monday. They fired head coach Mike Zimmer after eight seasons and Rick Spielman after 16 years with the team, including the past 10 as general manager.
“I think they were good moves,” Rashad said. “There needs to be change. They’re both quality people but they were there long enough to make a difference. When you have somebody there, you get a period of time to make something happen, but once it goes that long, you’ve got to make a change. You’ve got to go in another direction, and I think the Wilfs (ownership group) gave them enough time. They’ve been more than fair. They gave them a chance to really do something, and it just didn’t happen.”
Minnesota did make the playoffs four times with Spielman as general manager and three times with Zimmer as coach, and reached the NFC Championship Game after the 2017 season. But the Vikings failed to make the playoffs in either of the past two seasons, finishing with records of 7-9 in 2020 and 8-9 in 2021.
“It’s one of the greatest franchises in the NFL,” said Rashad, who played for the Vikings from 1976-82 and then became a successful broadcaster. “When you look at it, it’s got the greatest practice facility, and you’ve got a brand-new stadium. They’ve got everything but a winning team. And I think the Wilfs are like, ‘Hey, man, we want a winning team.’ ”
Rashad has been to the TCO Performance Center in Eagan, which opened in 2018, as well as several times to U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. He said he didn’t get to know Spielman that well but met Zimmer “a bunch of times” and developed a good relationship with him.
“He’s a solid, solid guy,” Rashad said of Zimmer. “He’s a guy a lot of guys would like to play for. … But (eight) years was enough time to sort of give you a chance to cement yourself. In a lot of places, you might get three years and you’re out of here… He’s a great coach and the Vikings did very well by him by giving him a chance to win over those eight years, but once it comes to that point, you’ve got to make a change. You got to shake stuff up.”
Rashad said he made a point of not visiting with Zimmer or any other coaches or team officials when he was in the Twin Cities last weekend.
“That was really on purpose not to talk to or see anybody because you knew something was coming up the next day,” Rashad said.
Rashad attended the game against the Bears because he had made plans to be in the Twin Cities to shoot an NFL Films segment with hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning at the Mall of America in Bloomington. The shoot was postponed to late January but Rashad decided to come to Minnesota anyhow as a stopover before he a business engagement in New York.
For the expected shoot, Rashad said the plan is to go with Manning to the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium, and find the exact spot where he caught a dramatic Hail Mary pass from Tommy Kramer on Dec. 14. 1980. The 46-yard grab on the last play gave the Vikings a 28-23 win over the Cleveland Browns and clinched the Central Division title.
“It’ll be interesting,” Rashad said. “it will be very, very weird saying, ‘I caught the pass in like a drugstore or in some kind of department story.’ I think it will be different but it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Rashad said he has been to Mall of America about five times and once tried to find the spot where he caught the ball, but had difficulty locating it.
Rashad has something else planned for his expected return later this month to Minnesota. He caught passes from then-New Orleans quarterback Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, in the January 1979 Pro Bowl in Los Angeles when Rashad was named MVP. And he filmed a segment in which he caught a pass from then-New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Peyton’s brother, days before Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in February 2018.
“I told Eli that I was the only person to catch a ball from you and your father — and now I have to get one from Peyton,” Rashad said.