Friday, October 9, 2015

leslie frazier

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.

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Independence Day.

Today is a day to remember those that fought for our freedom.  Those that later fought (and are currently fighting) to protect it.  It is a day to remember everything and everyone that makes this country the greatest on Earth (no offense, Denmark).  It is a time to spend with friends and family, enjoying the summer with a fishing pole in one hand and a brat in the other.

Both Brett and I extend a “Happy Fourth of July” to all of our readers and want to remind everyone to celebrate safely.

The holiday also makes for a perfect reason to mention that Leslie Frazier is currently representing the NFL on a USO tour in the Persian Gulf.  He is the only current head coach to make the trip to visit our overseas troops, joined by former coaches Bill Cowher and Eric Mangini.

Frazier had an opportunity to take advantage of some rare downtime between minicamp and training camp and rest and relax, but instead decided to do what he described as a “small thing” in an effort to lift the spirits of the service men and women stationed away from home.

“It just puts in perspective that there’s nothing you should ever complain about,” Frazier said.

Indeed, sir.  Indeed.

At the moment, all seems well on the Percy Harvin front if you are a fan of, say, any of the other 31 teams in the NFL.

Us Vikings fans, however, we know better than to get comfortable with anything.  To us, if something looks stagnant, it is probably a ticking time bomb.  Like how nice that big inflatable roof looks?  Like the enthusiasm coming from the guys in that huddle… all twelve of them?  Like your chances on this Gary Anderson field goal attempt?

So, yeah, when sites like PFT or ESPN declare the Percy Harvin storyline “dead” all we Vikings fans are really going to do is sit on the edge of our seats and wait for this thing to blow up.

Rick Spielman, however, wants us to know that Percy Harvin’s previously stated discontent is something he, his staff, and the coaches are prepared to handle.

“There’s different personalities that you have to deal with on a daily basis, but when you look at Percy, what he brings to us on the field, how much passion he has to play football, he gives us a great opportunity to win on Sundays when he’s on the field,” Spielman said recently. “We try to know and understand when we draft a player, sign a player as a free agent, or bring a player into our organization, how we’re going to have to handle this player. Is he going to be handled differently? What do we have to do differently to handle a player? Those are a lot of pre-discussions that we have before we bring players in. And you just have to have a game plan if a guy has an issue or something and then try to work off that.”

“I know coach Frazier really met and sat and talked a lot with Percy. I dealt more with the business side of it and dealt with his agent, Joel Segal,” Spielman said. “As far as I know, the last dialogue I had, we’re expecting Percy to be at training camp and ready to go.”

We still don’t know, and possibly never will know, what caused Harvin’s outbursts last week and the reported request for a trade, but as of today it looks like Spielman and Frazier were able to tag team the issue effectively.

Training camp starts next month, however, and Harvin’s name will almost be the first one called during a much anticipated roll call.

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As Vikings minicamp gets underway, the team’s offensive line is expected to have a new look and improved production.

One position that is not expected to see turnover at the starting spot is right tackle, manned by Phil Loadholt who is in a contract year.  Leslie Frazier complimented Loadholts pass and run blocking abilities, but said that he needed to be more consistent.

Loadholt didn’t seem to mind Frazier’s public assessment and admitted that Frazier was exactly right.

“He hit it right on the head,” Loadholt said. “It’s something I am going to work on. In this league, anytime you do anything wrong with technique you can look bad. So I will continue to work on my technique and get all those things right.”

If Matt Kalil can improve the left tackle position and Loadholt does indeed progress his play, Christian Ponder and company could indeed be in for a fun season.

If not, well…

… It is June, I don’t want to think about that.

The good news:  Percy Harvin has reported to minicamp.

The bad news:  He doesn’t plan on practicing much.

The worse news:  He has hinted that a holdout could be in the near future.

According to multiple reports (transcript here), Harvin is unhappy with a number of different issues and insists that those issues need to be resolved prior to training camp.  He did not go into specifics, but it is understandably assumed by media types that Harvin’s main issue surrounds his contract status.

Harvin is set to make $915,000 this year and $1.55 million in 2013, his final year from the rookie deal he signed.  The money obviously does not match up with his on-field importance, as is often the case in situations where a rookie performs at a high level.

“I’ll just put it this way — it’s a lot of different things that have to be sorted out,” Harvin said. “Just haven’t been real happy lately. So, we’ve got a couple things to work on. I’m here in the classroom, so we’ll go from here.”

Leslie Frazier made some comments that pretty much just sidestepped the issue all together and he just said he was glad to have Harvin at the minicamp, and that he expects all of his players to report to minicamp.

I can understand the motivation for Harvin, who has had his fair share of health problems, to want to cash in on his success thus far in the NFL.  I can also see why the front office might be hesitant to invest a ton of money into an injury-prone receiver, especially when they can retain his rights for another two years or possibly even three.

Assuming that the issues really are contract related (key word: assuming), then I don’t really see how Harvin will win this battle if he decides to take the holdout route.  The Vikings are likely not going to have many qualms about getting their young receivers extra reps during practice periods (remember, Jarius Wright is thought to be capable of playing a similar role as Harvin), and Harvin will almost certainly have to report if the Vikings start docking his pay in the event of a lengthy holdout.

I see this less as something that is an issue right now and more of a preview of things to come… next offseason.

But, who knows, maybe this turns really ugly really fast.

I hope not.

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