Leslie Frazier was fired this morning and a new era of Vikings football is about to begin in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Why was this decision made? Daniel House explains it all as he highlights Leslie Frazier's tenure with the Minnesota Vikings.
The NFL is a business. The ultimate goal is to fill the seats, pay for new stadiums, and put winning products on the field each Sunday. The Vikings weren't able to do so this season, a year after finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs. With a near billion dollar stadium coming in 2016, the ownership decided a coaching change was needed to spark fan interest, improve product on the field, and ultimately cause fans to want to contribute money to personal seat licenses in the new Vikings stadium. Leslie Frazier finished 22-31-1 in four seasons at the helm with the Minnesota Vikings. His winning percentage was the worst combined rate by a Vikings head coach, since Les Steckel went 3-13 in 1984. In a statement released this morning, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman explained the decision, “Unfortunately, we did not achieve consistent success and did not achieve the progress we expected. We believe a coaching change is needed to help build a successful team moving forward.”
As players filtered out of the final team meeting with Leslie Frazier, they all expressed their sadness about the decision to relieve the four year head coach of his coaching duties. Adrian Peterson declined to comment on the matter and he is surely upset about the decision, after discussing his interest to chat with ownership about retaining Frazier as head coach of the team. The sound that continued to resonate through the Vikings locker room, was the type of man and father figure Frazier was to his players.
"It's a harsh business, we all love coach Frazier as a coach..as a man, we feel like we let him down a little bit," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith following the final team meeting with Frazier.
I had the luxury to work with Leslie this summer at Vikings training camp and I can't justify the type of man Frazier is with the media. He will seek out your first name, make a connection with you, and answer your questions with pure honesty. You won't find a better man than Leslie Frazier, but the players need a coach who is a better manager and talent developer.
The players ultimately control the outcome of football games and at moments this season, they didn't produce on the field. Leslie Frazier cannot control how the players play, but he can put the players in the correct position to win. The Vikings lost an unacceptable five football games in the final minute and some of this was attributed to mismanagement in the final stages of contests. An all-out blitz in Chicago, resulted in four Bears receivers running to the end zone, limited coverage and a last second dagger. This was the theme in 2013 and many blamed defensive coordinator Alan Williams for these lapses, but remember, Leslie Frazier is a defensive coach. The defensive coordinator shoulders all the blame, but Frazier could have easily relieved Williams of his duties and took more responsibility in making defensive calls on the sidelines on Sunday's. Defense is Leslie Frazier's forte and after historically bad defenses in two of the last three seasons, his job security cannot be clearly justified. Last season, the Vikings needed to win the final four games of the 2012 season and did so, but before the run of wins to end the season, Frazier was ready to be axed. Adrian Peterson rushed for a historic amount of rushing yards and if this performance wouldn't have occurred, would the Vikings have won the final four games last year and made the playoffs? Probably not and Leslie Frazier could have been fired after a 3-13 season and a losing season in 2012.
This season, the Vikings weaknesses were brought forth with glaring clarity and Leslie Frazier couldn't provide enough coaching to take the Vikings to the next level. Frazier did his best with the personnel he was awarded and as many have said, it is difficult to win football games with the cast of quarterbacks he was provided with during his tenure. Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel and Sage Rosenfels were quarterbacks Frazier was allowed to work with during his tenure in Minnesota. Without the ability to work with a franchise quarterback, it makes being a head coach in this league very difficult. Generally when coaches are fired in the NFL, the inability to find a franchise quarterback is the main justification. Was Leslie Frazier really the person who wanted to start Christian Ponder, or was general manager Rick Spielman continually telling Frazier he must stick with the Florida State product we drafted with the 12th pick in the first round? We will never know exactly what happened, but Rick Spielman and Vikings ownership will now have the pressure on their shoulders to turn this team around.
Spielman never hired his head coach and will get one more chance to find a franchise quarterback this season. Rick's job is secure because of his ability to draft talent and make personnel moves with the best in the league. He drafted Matt Kail and Harrison Smith and traded Percy Harvin for the eventual drafting of Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes. He has done well in late rounds by selecting Blair Walsh, Audie Cole, and Brandon Fusco, and Jarius Wright in the backend of the draft. His major whiff was at the quarterback position, when he decided to reach for Christian Ponder and then stubbornly and politically invested faith into him, when it was time for clear change. My main hope for the organizational future of this team comes when they select a quarterback and new head coach for this team. I hope Rick Spielman makes the true decision and the Wilf''s keep their nose out of the process. The Wilf's made the decision to hire Brad Childress and rumor has surfaced they were very influential in the decision to sign Josh Freeman. The GM should be awarded full responsibility to make the decision and if they fail in the process, it is all on their shoulders. Slick Rick has one chance to show he can make the right decisions at the quarterback position, along with adequate moves with personnel and the coaching staff, or the Wilf's will be knocking at the door in a year and not to merely say hello.