McCombs downplays magazine comments
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
October 28, 2004 VIKE1028
The Vikings head coach next season will be either:
A) Mike Tice; or B) someone else.
So now that we've cleared up that little problem, we'll move on to world peace.
The long-term future of the coach, as well as the future viability of the team in Minnesota, remained in doubt Wednesday as owner Red McCombs backed away from a series of stunning comments attributed to him in a national magazine.
Contrary to what Sports Illustrated quoted him saying a day earlier, McCombs said he has made no decision regarding the 2005 option on Tice's contract.
The magazine also quoted McCombs saying "I would love to be in Los Angeles."
McCombs acknowledged Wednesday that "I don't even see that as an option."
McCombs will attend the NFL's quarterly owners meeting today in Detroit, where the agenda will include a report on the status of the league's possible return to Los Angeles. McCombs told Sports Illustrated that NFL officials know he would like to move the Vikings to Los Angeles, but in an interview Wednesday, McCombs said those desires are a moot point.
"Nothing has changed," McCombs said.Carlos GonzalezStar Tribune"If you asked me if I would like to see a stadium proposal from Los Angeles, the answer would be yes," McCombs said. "If you asked me if I would like to see a stadium proposal from Minnesota, the answer would also be yes. We don't have a stadium proposal from anywhere -- Los Angeles, Minnesota or anywhere else."
McCombs, however, said league officials have told him to "work it out in Minnesota." Since purchasing the team in 1998, McCombs has been unable to secure public financing for a new stadium and is giving strong thought toward selling the team.
But with no buyer prepared to meet his asking price of $600 million, and a league which has all but ruled out relocation, McCombs said: "We just have to keep on trucking here."
That advice also could apply to Tice, who had little to say Wednesday about the confusion surrounding his contract. The deal will expire after this season unless McCombs exercises the option, an action that would keep Tice under contract through 2005. The two men spoke Wednesday morning but, as per Tice's policy, the Sports Illustrated article did not come up.
"I do not discuss my contract with Red," Tice said.
McCombs, meanwhile, reiterated what he has said for months on the topic -- saying that he has neither exercised the option or even decided to do so.
"Nothing has changed," McCombs said. "We'll review Mike and the rest of the coaching staff at the end of the season, like we've always said."
Sports Illustrated quoted McCombs saying that even if the Vikings lost the remainder of their games, "I'm still going to exercise the option."
When asked about the discrepancy of the two statements, McCombs said, "I was asked, as [Twin Cities reporters] have asked like a broken record, if I like Mike and if I want him to stay here. I said I liked the job Mike is doing, and that I don't see any reason why anything would change that situation. But we won't come to a conclusion on that until after the season."
The entire discussion could become a matter of semantics. After starting 5-1, the Vikings have put themselves in the driver's seat for the NFC North Division title. Barring a collapse this season, Tice's $1 million option would make him a relative bargain in 2005. It also would not be a surprise for McCombs to offer an extension in that scenario; it is highly unusual for NFL coaches to enter a season as a pending "free agent."
Tice's contract status was a topic of conversation Wednesday among Vikings players -- most of whom Tice has either drafted, recruited or developed.
"Mike's built a good program here over the past three years," guard Chris Liwienski said. "We all like him and want him to succeed. ... It's not something we talk about as players, but I guess it's probably impossible not to be somewhat concerned with it.
"You come up with a coach. You're one of his guys, and you want to see him around. ... If you find a coach that likes your style and you win for him, that's about the closest thing to job security as there is."
Said cornerback Antoine Winfield: "We all understand that it's a business. Your contract is going to come up. But [Tice] is a good guy, a good coach and we love playing for him. If we make it to the playoffs, you would think he'll definitely get an extension. We have some control over that by the way we play and how many games we win. But that's really up to Red McCombs."
Who, on this day at least, insists there is nothing to report.