Leslie Frazier (Adam Bettcher/Getty)
As the Vikings wade through the final stages of a losing season, Leslie Frazier sounds confident he will return and says he has the backing of ownership as the team rebuilds the roster.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said there have been no indications that changes will be made “from a leadership standpoint” during the offseason.
There has been a growing sentiment that the Vikings should look to change the structure of their organization at the top, moving toward a general manager and away from the old “triangle of authority” between the head coach, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinksi. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hasn’t commented publicly about his plans for the top decision-makers on the football side of things, but a Pioneer Press report this week said that Frazier has been told he would return.
“I really haven’t talked a whole lot (with ownership) about what has to happen with me. Everything is really about getting ready for this New Orleans Saints game,” Frazier said when asked about the report Wednesday. “I’m very happy to be the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and that’s where my focus is, but there is no indication from anyone in the organization that things are going to be any different from a leadership standpoint in 2012.”
Frazier is in his first year as a head coach at either the NFL level or the major college level. He has compiled a 2-11 record this season after leading the team to a 3-3 record over the final six games of the 2010 season, when he took over on an interim basis after former head coach Brad Childress was fired.
Frazier knows the team is in a transition period with Christian Ponder starting as a rookie quarterback and without several starting veterans that were part of the team in 2010, including quarterback Brett Favre, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, defensive tackle Pat Williams, defensive end Ray Edwards, linebacker Ben Leber, safety Madieu Williams and wide receiver Bernard Berrian.
Some of those moves were necessary because of the Vikings’ salary-cap situation before the season started. Others, like with McKinnie, Madieu Williams and Berrian, were made because they didn’t fit with Frazier’s vision for the team. Frazier said ownership has been supportive of the roster rebuild.
“We share that same vision. We know where we are. We had an idea prior to the season, but definitely during this season we’ve had many discussions about where we are now and where we want to be and how we have to get there. And we’re going to talk more in detail when the season is over,” Frazier said. “But we’re on the same page on the things that need to happen going forward. I’m optimistic. In a lot of ways, this has been a challenging year for sure for all of us, but I really believe there will be better days to come.”
Like all teams, the Vikings entered the season without the ability to install their schemes during minicamps because of the NFL lockout, which lasted until shortly before the start of training camp. However, the Vikings were further behind because Frazier had hired a new offensive coordinator (Bill Musgrave) and a new special-teams coordinator (Mike Priefer), both of whom were implementing new schemes in Minnesota. Fred Pagac was given the full-time defensive coordinator position, the same spot he held for the final six games of 2010 on an interim basis, when Frazier was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach.
Frazier also hired former San Francisco 49ers head Mike Singletary, a former teammate of Frazier’s with the Chicago Bears from their playing days together in the early and mid 1980s. They have remained close friends over the last three decades, and Frazier has leaned on Singletary for advice.
“We talked often about what we’re experiencing here and some of the things he’s experienced in the past,” Frazier said. “I’ve tried to lean on him quite a bit to just try to dissect some of the things we’re facing and what we can do to move forward in a positive fashion. He’s been a great resource. You need a sounding board and he’s been that, especially in the last few weeks.”
Singletary was the interim head coach of the 49ers for the final nine games of 2008 and the full-time head coach in 2009 and the opening 15 games of 2010 before he was fired. During that time, he compiled a 5-4 record as the interim coach, was 8-8 in 2009 and was 5-10 before being fired in 2010.
“Really he just tries to just encourage me not to get away from what we’re trying to establish and making sure we have perspective on where we are now and where we want to be,” Frazier said. “That’s the thing he’s really tried to challenge me on, just keeping sight of the big picture and staying the course in so many areas.”
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.