Leslie Frazier is the right man for Vikings' cloudy future
Now that the 2010 Vikings season has come to a merciful conclusion, the Purple made the correct choice to remove the "interim" tag beside Leslie Frazier's name on Monday, naming him the eighth coach in the team's 50-year history.
Promoted from defensive coordinator/assistant head coach after Brad Childress was canned in late November, Frazier inherited a 3-7 mess of a team and matched his predecessor's seasonal win total with a 3-3 mark to close out the season.
Keeping Frazier with the Purple may not be best defined as a "necessary" decision for Vikings' ownership--but it was the right one.
"This is a special day for a lot of reasons. I couldn't think of a situation I would rather be in than the one I'm currently in," Frazier said at Monday's press conference. "You know sometimes in life, you have dreams, you have aspirations, and sometimes you achieve those and sometimes you fall short. But for me, this is a dream come true."
Should either Bill Cowher or Frazier's former boss, Tony Dungy, have hinted at a desire to lead the Vikings, the decision to retain Frazier could be called into some question. Yet neither of those former Super Bowl winners expressed any interest in the gig, and understandably so, as the Vikings are in a state of turmoil at present. In brief, the team: is coming off one of the worst seasons in their five decades of football, owns no solidified quarterback for next season (and doesn't hold a top-10 draft choice to help fill that void), and has no stadium deal beyond 2011. In addition, with the over-current of an NFL lockout looming over next year--the job reeks of red flags before rose buds.
Statistically, the Vikings basically mirrored their scoring averages before/during Frazier's interim stint. Under Childress, they scored a mere 17.2 points per game and yielded 19.5. With Frazier, they averaged 18.1 points per and allowed 20.3.
But of course, the firing of Childress offered no slow of what may have been the most bizarre campaign in Minnesota sporting history. Here's a brief rundown/reminder of what Frazier achieved and endured en route to his .500 mark:
Game No. 1 (11/28/10)
The Vikings win in Frazier's debut, beating the Redskins 17-13 to end a nine-game road losing streak.
Game No. 2 (12/5/10)
After Brett Favre is knocked from the game on his first pass attempt, the Vikings fell the Bills 38-14 under Tarvaris Jackson to give Frazier a 2-0 start and claim their first regular-season win streak since weeks 11 and 12 of 2009.
Game No. 3 (12/13/10)
After the collapse of the Metrodome roof, the Vikings "host" the Giants at Ford Field in Detroit in a rescheduled/relocated contest that sees Favre's streak of 297 consecutive regular-season starts come to a close. The Purple fall 21-3 in a sloppy mess where Jackson's own season concludes and rookie quarterback Joe Webb sees his first game action under center.
Game No. 4 (12/20/10)
A second consecutive relocation takes the Vikings outdoors to TCF Bank Stadium, and a sanguine start devolves into an ugly 40-14 loss to eventual division champ Chicago. After Favre leads the Purple to a game-opening touchdown drive, he's later concussed and the Vikings are outscored 30-7 in the game's final three quarters.
Game No. 5 (12/28/10)
Despite their game with Philly being questionably delayed two days because of an East Coast snowstorm, the Vikings and Webb shock the nation with a 24-14 win over the then 10-4 Eagles in the NFL's first Tuesday game since 1946. The victory gives Frazier a signature win, ensures a .500 record in his '10 tenure, and readily evidences his influence over a Viking team already eliminated from playoff contention.
Game No. 6 (1/2/11)
The circus finally closes (back in Detroit) as the Vikings lose 20-13 to a Lions team that ends the season with a four-game win streak. Webb makes his second consecutive start for the Vikings and evidences all the growing pains of a rookie QB as the Purple score nary an offensive touchdown.
It's almost a wonder that Frazier's mellow head didn't spontaneously explode during some
juncture of the above timeline. But under the leadership of the former Bears d-back, a beat-up Vikings squad showed some signs of pluck despite their woeful standing, and veteran players were quick to endorse his value over the course of the past month. By keeping Frazier--who has been in Minnesota since 2007--the Purple are ensuring some degree of continuity in a Viking landscape otherwise filled with more horns than shields.
"One of the things that gets me excited about my job here in Minnesota is the fact that I don't think we're that far away," Frazier, who has coached in the NFL since 1999, added at his presser. "I really believe--there are some things that we'll address this offseason--we're right back in the hunt for the NFC North Championship and the NFC Championship as well. I really believe that in my heart. Just knowing our roster, knowing our division, understanding what you have to do to win in our division. I don't think we're depleted, and obviously there's some people that we want to be able to retain, but our roster's going to turn over, there's no question about it. But we're not that far away."
Leslie Frazier owns two Super Bowl rings--one as a player (Chicago) and one as a coach (Indy). I don't see another finger being occupied in the very near future (if there even is a "very near future" in the NFL), but the guy was the correct hire in these curious football times. If the Vikings can broker a savvy addition to the sport's most important position, I see no reason why Frazier can't bring the Purple back to instant respectability and return them to the playoffs next year.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.