In a season in which three quarterbacks have started and breakdowns on defense and special teams have contributed to a 1-6 record, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman expressed his support for head coach Leslie Frazier.
“Leslie Frazier is our football coach and we are 100 percent behind Leslie and his coaching staff. And we’re 100 percent behind our players,” Spielman said during an extensive midseason roundtable session with reporters Friday afternoon.
“Leslie Frazier is not going anywhere. I am telling you that we are very committed to Leslie Frazier and this coaching staff. And we’re committed to our players, and everybody is working extremely hard to get this thing turned around.”
Still, when asked what will define a successful season, Spielman had a succinct one-word answer: “Wins.”
He added after a follow-up question: “We’re not in this business not to win. It’s just expected. You expect to go out and win and you expect to go out and win every week and that’s what this business is about, is getting wins.”
A 1-6 start is challenging for the entire organization, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office and beyond.
Frazier and his even-keel approach were part of the solution during the 2010 season, when he took over as the interim head coach when Brad Childress was fired after a 3-7 record through 10 games. Under Frazier, they finished out the season 3-3. The following year, they went 3-13, but with a younger team last year Frazier helped build up a 10-6 playoff team.
This year, despite a 1-6 start, there have been no obvious signs of back-biting.
“I think that’s a strength of our coaching staff and that’s a strength of our players and the type of players that we have tried to bring into the organization as well is to stick together and to bring those type of character guys,” Spielman said. “Like I said, when everything and you’re going through the adversity that we’re going through right now, there’s not guys down there that are bailing out. Those guys are even coming and being together even closer. That’s what gives you the optimism that we’re going to be able to have a successful season and get this thing turned around.”
Perhaps no one wants to win more than owner Zygi Wilf and his family, and Spielman said he talks with them often. Their focus, too, is trying to find a way to right the ship.
“No, our focus is on getting this turned around, on getting this changed from our organization, ownership on down. We back Coach Frazier 100 percent and we’ll do everything we can to help him get this thing turned around,” Spielman said.
“I have conversations with (the Wilfs), and they’re just like everyone, it’s been a rough start. But they’re in the same boat. We’re all in this together. We’re all supporting each other. And whatever roles we have in the organization, we’re going to work to try and get this thing turned around as quickly as we can. They’ve been very, very supportive.”
Spielman addressed numerous questions about the quarterback position that saw Christian Ponder start the first three games, then circled between Matt Cassel and early October free-agent pickup Josh Freeman before circling back around to Ponder. The message regarding the quartebacks: Spielman is in charge of acquisitions and setting the 53-man roster, the coaching staff is in charge of who plays and when, and that includes the starting quarterbacks.
Spielman, however, said it’s not just the coaching staff that is being asked to turn around the season after a slow start. Everyone and everything, including Spielman’s way of doing things, are being analyzed.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out how to get this turned around and get back to where you could win some ballgames. I just see how hard the coaches are working at night, the players are doing extra, there’s always a sense of urgency, but guys really care and everybody’s sticking together,” Spielman said. “That’s what gives you the optimism that we’re going to fight through this and get through this. You read about or see some places where you are struggling and then there’s all of a sudden some divide. If anything, this has brought us closer together as an organization to get through this and get this turned around as quickly as we can.”
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.