Leslie Frazier to lead Vikings as interim head coach [UPDATES]
For at least six weeks, Leslie Frazier is an assistant no more. In the wake of firing Brad Childress after four-and-a-half seasons at the 3-7 Vikings' helm, the organization promoted Frazier to head coach on an interim basis today.
Frazier has interviewed for at least seven NFL head coaching jobs in recent years, most recently in Buffalo and Seattle. An offer was never extended for any of the gigs for which he interviewed. Frazier has also been connected to recent rumors regarding the Dallas Cowboys, should they not retain their own interim head coach, Jason Garrett.
Frazier, 51, has been the Vikings d-coordinator since 2007. A former stud NFL defensive back for the Chicago Bears, his career ended abruptly due to a knee injury suffered in the Bears' Super Bowl XX win. He's credited with building the Trinity College (now Trinity International University) football program from the ground up, serving as their first head coach in 1988, a post he held until 1996.
At Monday afternoon's presser, Frazier was introduced by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf who began the conference by wishing the best to Childress and his family -- after firing him on Thanksgiving week. An undercurrent of Chilli's departure seemingly washed over the team's rapid descent this season when Wilf noted that Frazier was "highly respected by [Viking] players."
Wilf would not address Frazier's status beyond this season. The Vikings have had a slew of talented assistants in recent years that have found ample success as head coaches in other towns, including Super Bowl winners: Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, and Mike Tomlin. Speaking to the St. Paul Pioneer Press today, Dungy, Frazier's former boss in Indy, said:
"It's such a difficult situation, taking over in midstream. But Leslie is a very sound coach. He is fundamentally sound and he will encourage his players to play with energy . . . It's so hard in midseason because you're not going to make a lot of changes, tactically. It's really about an attitude adjustment to get players to refocus and energize.
"And the No. 1 thing he has right now that benefits him in this situation is his ability to communicate."
Taking the podium, Frazier said much of what a coach in such a position is expected to say as he consistently spoke toward a team focus on the future, starting with this Sunday's away game versus the Redskins.
When questioned about the team's quarterback situation, Frazier instantly stated that Brett Favre will remain the team's QB, and added: "I have no hesitation with that."
Speaking toward his aims and expectations over the course of the season's final six games, Frazier said:
"We have great fans in Minnesota. They deserve the best from our football team we're going to do our best to make sure they're proud." The interim head concluded the presser by adding:
"I hope that you'll never question the effort of our players, because that's a reflection on me personally," before saying of the Vikings' remaining hurdles, "The challenge I have before me is to make sure we are going the right direction, and that we're not a 3-13 team."
As an NFL coach since 1999, Frazier had worked with the Philadelphia Eagles (d-backs coach, 1999-2002), Cincinnati Bengals (defensive coordinator, 2003-04) and Indianapolis Colts (d-backs, 2005-06) before coming to the Vikings to work under Childress in '07. This is his first NFL head coaching job.
Frazier's name was a hot commodity both after he won the Super Bowl with the Colts, and during/after the Vikings' run to the NCF title game last season. While his Vikings defense has oft-struggled this season -- ranking 26th in sacks and 19th in points allowed per game -- and his pass d-units have never finished better than 18th in the NFL in yards allowed or better than 20th in interceptions, Frazier has twice led the Purple to the league's top defense versus the run (2007-08). Last season, the Vikings defense was second in the league defending the run and topped the NFL in sacks. In 2007 and 2008, the Vikings ranked eighth and fourth in the league in sacks, respectively. The past two seasons, Frazier d-units ranked sixth in total yards allowed per game.
Frazier becomes the Vikings' eighth head coach in the 50-year history of the franchise, not including the luminary Bud Grant's two stints with the team.
Viking players weren't made available to the media today, although some have commented over Twitter while nine others provided comment via e-mail. Here are quotes from Tom Pelissero's 1500ESPN.com page (per Frazier, pay particular note to comments from Favre, A.P., and Heath Farwell):
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