Vikings make Leslie Frazier their next head coach
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Touting Leslie Frazier’s communication style, crisis management skills and credibility with players, the Minnesota Vikings decided to strip the interim tag from the former NFL cornerback and make him their head coach.
Frazier stressed a team-first mentality on Monday, and a belief that “it’s only a matter of time” before the championship-deprived franchise wins a Super Bowl.
He vowed a thorough examination of the roster, the staff and the scheme on both sides of the ball to get the Vikings back to the playoffs, following a dramatic 6-10 failure that came after an NFC runner-up finish the season before.
The Vikings started 3-7 before Frazier took over Nov. 22 for the fired Brad Childress. They went 3-3 under the 51-year-old longtime assistant coach the rest of the way.
“I think we’ll be able to look back at these last six weeks and say, ’You know what? That was the beginning of something special,” Frazier said Monday, during his introductory news conference at Winter Park.
Mired in a mess of a season that started with a Super Bowl-or-bust goal, the Vikings saw Brett Favre get slammed to the turf and sprain his throwing shoulder on Dec. 5. Then the roof of their domed stadium collapsed a week later, they had back-to-back home games moved, and their scheduled Dec. 26 game at Philadelphia was pushed back two days by a snowstorm.
Frazier’s ability to keep his players relatively focused despite being out of postseason contention was a major factor in getting the full-time job.
“I was standing up in front of them and talking to them about how we have to approach every situation and not always certain if they’re buying in,” Frazier said. “And then you go out and watch them perform, and you go, ’Yeah, they’re buying in. They’re listening.’ So for me, that was just another example of sticking with your message, believing in what you say, and if you’re honest, if you’re straightforward, people will follow.”
The Wilf family has stressed stability and acted swiftly over five-plus years of ownership, and Frazier was selected in the same focused, confident manner.
“We took it very seriously and we took a lot of input on this, but clearly Leslie is the right man for the job,” team president Mark Wilf said. “He listens and makes good decisions. We saw a lot of that through a lot of the adversity, especially the last few weeks.”
The Wilfs fired former coach Mike Tice minutes after his final game of the 2005 season. And just like the discipline-minded Childress was hired in part as a reaction to the boat party fiasco that took place under Tice, Frazier brings a warmer and more dynamic personality than his predecessor, who turned some fans and players off by coming across as rigid and aloof.
Childress had final word on the roster. His hasty, solo act of jettisoning troublesome wide receiver Randy Moss upset the Wilfs and also showed a hole in the hierarchy.
Front office titles will remain the same, and the Vikings won’t hire a traditional general manager. Frazier and vice president for player personnel Rick Spielman instead will share the authority over roster moves.
“It’s about communication, trust and working together. And we feel very confident that it’s the proper system,” lead owner Zygi Wilf said. “I don’t feel that when they discuss things out and communicate and talk it out that there’ll ever be a situation where we would have to be the ones to be calling for a tiebreaker.”
Frazier said he has “a ton of respect” for Spielman. Their first collaborative task is obvious: find a quarterback, or two. Favre is finally retiring, and Frazier said he wouldn’t ask the 41-year-old to reconsider again.
“I can’t think of any circumstance of where I would pick up the phone and say, ’Brett, do you want to come back next season?”’ Frazier said.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s hovering around 4-12, 3-13. You don’t want to be that. At the same time, you don’t want to bring in a stopgap guy and not develop a young quarterback for the future,” he added. “I think we all want a young quarterback that we can develop and build our franchise around. That would be ideal, to find the next Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco.”
The defensive coordinator under Childress and a starting cornerback on Chicago’s 1985-86 championship team, Frazier drew positive reviews from the players for his steady approach.
“He’s always seemed like a head coach ever since he took over that role,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “He knows how to talk to you, and he respects you.”
Childress hired Frazier to run the defense in 2007, after Mike Tomlin left to become Pittsburgh’s coach, and later appointed him assistant head coach. Frazier, who has coached in the league since 1999, has interviewed for seven NFL head coaching vacancies over the past three years. This was the eighth.
“He played in the league, first of all,” running back Adrian Peterson said after Sunday’s season-ending loss at Detroit. “He has all of the respect from each and every man in this locker room. So when he talks, the ears will listen to what he has to say.”
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