Danger signs about Foley didn't take long to arise
In three months, many employees were seeing the new hire's overbearing behavior. And word eventually got to Zygi Wilf.
Vikings Insider Kevin Seifert
Less than 24 hours before the first draft of the Zygi Wilf Era, much of the conversation at Winter Park had nothing to do with players, rankings or trades. No, the topic on April 28 centered squarely on one issue: What to do about Fran Foley, whose tenure as vice president of player personnel was approaching a full-fledged disaster.
According to interviews with numerous sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, it appears team employees began airing serious complaints that eventually made their way to new owner Wilf.
In a three-month period, the employees had witnessed Foley reduce a staffer to tears for a paperwork mistake. They knew coach Brad Childress had caught him berating assistant coaches, and they had seen him rebuke maintenance workers for offenses as minor as an uneven paint job.
Most of all, they were concerned about thinly veiled threats Foley made about the future of the personnel department.
Foley, according to the sources, warned a secretary to stay home Monday because he planned a "bloodbath" -- apparently, a mass firing of scouts and administrators.
Foley presided over the draft in near-mutinous conditions, according to the sources, and Wilf ended another turbulent chapter in team history by firing him "for cause" Monday. Foley plans to grieve the decision, claiming he was the victim of a Machiavellian power play executed by Childress and others. Foley's attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, said Wednesday he would not address specific issues regarding the termination. Kessler did not return a phone call Thursday.
Most sources suggest the latter scenario, even while placing some blame on the Vikings for being unaware of -- or not placing enough importance on -- Foley's history of brash behavior and his undistinguished scouting record while working in San Diego and Jacksonville for the previous 12 years.
Most NFL observers, in fact, were stunned when the Vikings hired him Jan. 26, considering it proof that, regardless of title and public import, the job never was intended to carry significant personnel authority. In truth, only one major move had Foley's fingerprints on it: The acquisition of free agent linebacker Ben Leber, whom Foley had seen play for San Diego while working for the Chargers.
The first came in his introductory news conference, when he told reporters that the Vikings -- who are seeking some $400 million in public support for a new stadium -- would no longer discuss their football business in public. He twice admitted to embellishing his media biography and rÃ©sumÃ©, making no effort to correct the second set of errors after admitting the first. Most recently, he referred to second-round draft choice Tarvaris Jackson, who is black, as a "boy."
The Vikings hope to use the rÃ©sumÃ© issue to extricate themselves from paying his three-year contract, but the consequences will not end there. When the dust settles, Wilf will be forced to reevaluate the leadership structure he hoped would carry him through his early years of ownership.
Who, if anyone, will he hold responsible for vetting and hiring Foley? According to the sources, the committee that ran the process -- Childress, along with vice presidents Rob Brzezinski and Kevin Warren -- was split. Wilf sided with those who favored Foley.