Leslie Frazier (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Vikings ownership isn’t publicly putting any winning mileposts on Leslie Frazier’s job security, but the NFL stats indicate there is little tolerance for losing these days.
The NFL has been known as a pretty cutthroat business. Player contracts are rarely guaranteed and one of the reasons for last year’s lockout was the players’ demand that more money be guaranteed to players.
But, just as player deals have become more of a “what have you done for me lately?” type proposition, so has the life expectancy of an NFL head coach. Losing has never been tolerated in the NFL, but the rate of hiring and firing of head coaches has become an epidemic.
Leslie Frazier has just 22 games under his belt as the head coach of the Vikings (winning six of those and losing 16). In the big picture of things, 22 games is merely a blip on the screen in the history of the game, but in head coaching terms it’s become much more than that.
As hard as it might be to believe, Frazier ranks 20th in the NFL in terms of tenure with his current team as its head coach and he’s been on the job less than a year-and-a-half. In fact, since 2010, more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams (17) have hired a new head coach – a turnaround rate that is the highest in the history of the league.
Frazier was the last of five head coaches hired in 2010, replacing Brad Childress on Nov. 22, 2010 to become the new Vikings top dog. In 2011, five more teams – Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco and Tennessee – hired a new head coach. In 2012, seven more teams – Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Oakland, St. Louis and Tampa Bay – hired new head coaches.
The attrition rate of coaches is such that only eight head coaches have been with their current team for more than five years, representing a scant 15 percent of the NFL.
Frazier knows that the Vikings are in a rebuilding mode, but winning had better come quickly or he will end up being the next statistic in this frightening high mortality among head coaches.
There are few fraternities more elite than that of NFL head coaches. Of all the coaches that are out there at the pro and college level, there are only 32 members to that exclusive club. It’s become clear that the NFL stands for Not For Long if a coach doesn’t succeed and his vision of moving a franchise forward doesn’t catch on and take root.
It would appear the days of the Five-Year Plan for NFL head coaches are over. Success has to be immediate or change is made. Considering that in the last three years alone, more than half of the teams in the league have made a change at the top spot on the team, there is little margin for error and little tolerance for losing.
As Minnesota prepare for the 2012 season, there are a lot of players on the new-look Viking that realize if they don’t make a big impression on their head coach, they could just as easily be out the door by early September. It would seem there is the same pressure on head coaches to keep their jobs from year to year.
Frazier and his staff didn’t get a fair shake last year because the lockout prevented them from being able to implement the team’s new offensive schemes and, by just about any measure, the results were disastrous. He hasn’t made that excuse, pointing that every team was in the same situation even if they weren’t installing schemes with new quarterbacks. While the Vikings aren’t expected to be in the thick of the playoff chase this year (most pick them to finish fourth in the NFC North), all eyes are on the future and rebuilding the team. Will Frazier be afforded that courtesy? From the looks of things, if you don’t win now in the NFL, tomorrow is far from a guarantee.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.