I am heading out for the weekend, off to meet long-time internet friend and fellow Vikings fan “Fran the Man” to do some fishing on the famous Tangle Lakes (pictured above).
Before trekking off into the wild, however, I wanted to get one last post up as sort of a response to a comment received under my recent post on Leslie Frazier’s USO Tour.
B. Grant wrote: “Nice piece here, Adam. Shows some real class on Leslie’s part (and on your part for pointing it out to us). Gonna put you on the spot, now… What’s your true gut feeling about Leslie Frazier as an NFL head coach? Is he gonna have a long term and eventually successful run here in Minnesota, or will we be looking at a different head coach in the not-too-distant future? Can Leslie be a Super Bowl champion head coach? Go ahead, give us your honest take on this.”
Okay, it has been a while since I have taken a real hard stance on something and made foolish predictions, so now seems like a fitting time to rekindle my old love for hack bloggering.
Yes! I think Leslie Frazier can be a Super Bowl winning head coach.
Now, there is a long laundry list of reasons to doubt Frazier. He mistakenly hung his hat on washed up veterans like Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian last season. Chris Cook’s disasterous arrest prior to a Packers game and Adrian Peterson’s horrible injury during a garbage game, both happened under his watch. Bill Musgrave, under Frazier’s authority, seemed to greatly underutilize players like Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, and even Adrian Peterson at various points last season. There was even some unexpected wishy-washy decision making at the end of the season when a hobbled Christian Ponder, who perhaps shouldn’t have been playing to start with, was replaced a number of times by Joe Webb. Familiarity led to jobs being handed to Fred Pagac and Mike Singletary but the results were not at all favorable. Botched challenges and too many penalties were just more signs of a dismal season.
More aggravating to me than anything listed above, and also more worrisome, were some very questionable play calls that ended up deciding games… and not to the Vikings benefit. Who can forget Toby Gerhart’s fourth down carries against Detroit and Atlanta, both of which screamed “desperation” and signaled to the fans that the 2011 was forever lost.
Still, despite all of the negatives, I think that this is not only a new season but also a very different season and Frazier will make improvements that show exactly why he is an asset to the team.
First, there is no lockout. Taking over a roster with a shortened offseason and two new quarterbacks as a first year head coach is not an enviable position to be in. The negative consequences of the craziness that was the 2011 offseason were evident throughout the season, but I think we have already started to see (outside of Percy Harvin) a cohesiveness this year that just simply wasn’t there last year.
Secondly, Frazier gets to be a coach. He put his name on enough poor personnel decisions last offseason that the Vikings ended up essentially demoting him and giving sole authority over the roster to General Manager Rick Spielman. I think this will take a lot of pressure off of Frazier and allow him to sit back and do the two things he does best: coach football and mentor young men. What we saw this offseason, in the way Frazier and Spielman handled the sudden eruption from Percy Harvin, was a refreshing change from the days of Brad Childress and, while we don’t know all the details, this is the first true evidence we have to suggest the new power structure is an improvement over the old Triangle of Authority.
Cutting down on off-the-field problems, instilling a sense of discipline on this young roster, and seeing progressive improvement and development in all phases of the game are essential to Frazier’s future with the team. No single factor will have more weight, however, than the progression of Christian Ponder.
If Ponder excels, Frazier has a future. If he stumbles, Frazier likely doesn’t. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, I think that will be the case regardless of how Frazier does in all the other aspects of coaching this season. Ponder and Frazier (and possibly Spielman) are tied together with a knot that is too tight to undo. Ponder’s improvement and success are paramount to the future of this young team, and the employment status of Leslie Frazier and his staff.
So far, all signs are pointing towards an improved quarterback situation, so right now I have no reason to doubt Frazier or his ability to turn this mess around and get started down the right track.
Okay, have a good weekend everyone!
I’m off to catch some fish.