Few NFL front office members are as candid and forthcoming as Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
And when it comes to one of the most transformational trades in recent memory, the Bills general manager did not mince his words in discussing the background of the Stefon Diggs deal.
Bills GM Brandon Beane Rips Former Vikings Regime
Much has been made of Diggs forcing his way out of Minnesota, with more nuanced added after details surrounding the Mike Zimmer-Rick Spielman regime have continued to taint the final years of both leaders’ tenure.
A month into the 2019 season, Diggs skipped team meetings and a practice over displeasure with the direction of the Vikings offense. Minnesota fined him $200,000 for his misbehavior, prompting Diggs to begin cryptically signaling his desire to move on from Minnesota.
Beane, learning later of the trouble brewing within the Vikings locker room, said the organization could have handled it better.
“It sounded like it was just a relationship that had run its course. He’d had some frustration that I was aware of. There probably were things he could have handled better and things the Vikings could have handled better,” Beane told The Athletic. “Sometimes, those things happen, where a relationship is not the same as it once was.”
Former Vikings wide receivers coach Darrell Hazel put Diggs’ displeasure with the offense best.
“When you’re not in the game plan, you haven’t touched the ball after 15 scripted plays and things are not going well for the team offensively, a competitor wants to be involved in the game plan,” Hazel told The Athletic.
Mike Zimmer had taken control of the offensive philosophy and urged the team to run the ball more. It led to a revolving door at the position, cycling through six different offensive coordinators in Zimmer’s eight-year tenure.
“Mike Zimmer was not running an offense that was balanced or situated toward the pass, and it was clear that was the future of the organization. They were going to be a 60-40, run-centric offense, which would mean their receivers would walk out of the game with sparse numbers and contributions,” Diggs’ agent Adisa Bakari told The Athletic.
Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman Admits He Didn’t Want to Let Stefon Diggs Go
Bakari revealed to The Athletic that he held a meeting with Rick Spielman in October 2019 after Diggs missed team meetings, asking the team to trade Diggs.
Speilman called Diggs into his office and asked of him to finish the season. Diggs obliged.
“I brought Stef into my office and talked him through everything as well. It was as professional as any player could be,” Spielman told The Athletic. “We agreed we would finish out the season, play hard and then we would go from there.
“Stefon said, “OK,” and you didn’t hear anything else about it until that tweet the day of the trade (in March 2020),” Bakari added.
Spielman also revealed that after Diggs’ misbehavior, he still wanted to keep the star. However, the offense’s direction continued to be under the thumb of Zimmer, leading to the inevitable trade request.
“We wanted to keep him. But you continue to assess and evaluate as you go through processes like this,” Spielman said, adding that acquiring Justin Jefferson in the draft took the burden of replacing Diggs off his shoulders. “We didn’t know we were going to get Justin Jefferson. Once we did, you can say you knew he was going to be good, but you can’t know for sure how good. If someone knew that, they’d be making a gazillion dollars to draft each year.”
The Vikings have since moved on from the Spielman-Zimmer regime and have vaulted the offense into top-10 territory through eight games of the first year under head coach Kevin O’Connell. Jefferson remains the centerpiece of the team’s offense, boasting a team-high in receptions (59) and receiving yards (867).
Minnesota ranks sixth in pass attempts this season compared to 30th in Diggs’ final season with the Vikings in 2019.