Leslie Frazier (Paul Sancya/AP)
The Vikings appear close to inking Leslie Frazier as the eighth head coach in team history, but they had to wait to make the decision final. Frazier and players offered their thoughts on the possibilities.
All signs point to Leslie Frazier becoming the Vikings head coach for the future in the next day or two, but the Vikings were required to wait until the completion of the NFL season to make that move official because of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which requires the team to interview at least one minority candidate.
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, Frazier can be the candidate interviewed and the Vikings aren’t required to interview another one, but because Frazier was hired in-season on an interim basis without any pre-arranged condition in his contract to assume the job full-time, the job had to be opened up for a minority interview.
“If a coaching change is made during the season, the club may name an interim coach from its existing coaching staff for the remainder of the season without going through a formal interviewing process,” the Rooney Rule states. “However, the club must follow the mandatory interviewing process in choosing a new permanent head coach, unless the club had concluded a prior contractual agreement with a member of its coaching staff to become the club’s head coach and this contractual agreement had been filed with the League Office at the time it was signed.”
Frazier said after the Vikings’ season finale Sunday that he would meet with the Wilf ownership group either Sunday night or Monday to “find out where we’re headed. Nothing has been solidified, but we’re going to talk about it.”
FOX Sports and the Star Tribune reported during the game that Frazier is the team’s choice.
“I’d love to be in that role next season,” Frazier said, “so we could have a full offseason to implement some ideas and thoughts that I have for our team. My familiarity with our situation, understanding our background and what I think we need to do to get back to being NFC North champions, it just gives me confidence that we can get it done in short order. I’m hoping for the best and just believing that I’ll be back in Minnesota.”
While the Vikings finished the season with a 6-10 record after a 20-13 loss in Detroit, the Vikings were 3-3 under Frazier’s watch while he navigated through the remainder of a difficult season that included Brett Favre’s indecision on returning throughout training camp, his numerous injuries throughout the season, preseason hip surgery to the team’s 2009 receiving leader, Sidney Rice, a trade for Randy Moss that lasted only four games before he was released, which contributed to the firing of Brad Childress as head coach, and the collapse of the Metrodome roof that caused a three-game “home” stretch in December to have games played at three different stadiums.
“Honestly, it’s not my decision. I don’t get involved in politics and stuff, but I love Coach Frazier,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I think he’s a great human being, first of all. He’s helped me grow as a man and I think he provides a good work environment.”
Frazier joined the Vikings in 2007 as the defensive coordinator and his background as a cornerback with the 1985 Chicago Bears, who won the Super Bowl that year, holds additional sway with the players.
“Les is a great head coach. I feel like he can get us to where we need to go,” said running back Adrian Peterson. “He played in the League, first of all. 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.”
Like Childress before him, Frazier set up his own leadership committee, but Frazier is relying on the members more than Childress did, at least during his final season. Frazier met with his 10-person committee several times in his first weeks at the helm and continued to use them throughout the final month to relay his messages in the locker room during the week.
“He’s a player-coach. He’s got his own set of rules and we all respect them,” said receiver Percy Harvin, who is one of the men on the committee. “He’s one of those guys that meets with the leaders of the team constantly, asking if there is anything that needs to be changed. If it’s something reasonable, he’ll get it done to benefit our team and I think we all love playing for him, and would love to play for him in the future.”
Frazier has some changes he would like to implement, but he declined to get into specifics until the move is made official.
“If I am indeed named the head coach of the Vikings, there are some things I would definitely like to address for sure,” he said. “… It will be another time to talk about those in detail, but there are some things that I would like to address for sure.”
He will have to replace running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who leaves to be the offensive coordinator of the University of Colorado, and he will likely look to fill either the defensive coordinator position or linebackers coach, whichever one isn’t filled by Fred Pagac, who performed the duties of defensive coordinator when Frazier was promoted.
There could be other changes he looks to implement in the coaching staff in the coming weeks if does come to a finalized agreement as the head coach, and he will have to be a part of decision-making process for the team on more than two dozen players scheduled to become free agents.
Those are all decisions for the future. For now, Frazier is waiting on some finality to a decision that already appears to have been made – being named the head coach of the team on a full-time basis.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.