Saturday, July 4, 2015

leslie frazier

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Every ounce of respect shown to Leslie Frazier in the moments following his dismissal from the Minnesota Vikings has been matched by the respect shown to Mike Zimmer upon his arrival.

Zimmer is a favorite among Bengal fans and observers and they let their displeasure be known when news broke he would be leaving to fill the head coaching vacancy in Minnesota.  His players, current and former, showered him with complimentary quotes and soundbites across all of the various media outlets.  Even his former employers have come out of the woodwork to vouch for this guy.

Widely described as man who should have been a head coach long ago, Zimmer brings Vikings fans exactly what they wanted, which is a defensive-minded coach that has a winning pedigree on his resume and a shotgun blast of a personality.  While he may be just as revered as as Frazier around the NFL, Zimmer is the polar opposite when it comes to motivational tactics and sideline composure.

Zimmer has experience with a variety of defensive schemes and it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do with this roster, but it seems highly likely that the Tampa-2 scheme we have grown so used to is now a thing of the past.  We will likely see a more aggressive attack from up front and, finally, an emphasis on quality play in the secondary.

His son, Adam, is an assistant defensive backs coach with the Bengals and seems like a possibility to get a promotion if he follows his father to the Land of Lakes.  Some have even speculated that the younger Zimmer could be a candidate for the Defensive Coordinator position under his father’s close watch.

The more pressing matter will be the offensive coordinator position.  Adam Schefter has has reported that the Vikings received permission from the Cleveland Browns to interview Norv Turner for the position.  Turner, of course, is currently in limbo after Cleveland has failed to hire their new head coach after firing their previous one for no apparent reason… but I digress.

If hiring Zimmer means getting Turner as their offensive coordinator then I consider this offseason to already be on a successful course.  While his head coaching years turned him into a punchline, I firmly believe there are few offensive minds in the NFL that can compare.  Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, and [insert some quarterback here] would instantly become more likely to see major successes in the future if Turner replaces Bill Musgrave.

The Vikings have yet to announce the hire.  I expect they are currently sorting through all of the assistants that are still employed, and letting them know their status with the team prior to making anything official through the media.  In a lot of ways this is the right thing to do, as I’d rather learn about my demise from my boss than from a reporter with a Twitter account.

So, tomorrow’s news is likely to be a little more dour and consist of firings, but right now the future is looking bright for the Minnesota Vikings.  At the very least, the fans seem to be happy for the first time in a long time.

[UPDATE:  The Vikings have announced the hiring via an awkward video on their official team website.  CLICK HERE to check it out.]

Near the end of the 2012 NFL season I started heavily advocating for the Vikings to draft an elite punter prospect and part ways with one of the franchise’s all-time best, Chris Kluwe.  While I can’t speak for the Vikings front office and coaching staff, as I have no first-hand knowledge of their thought process, but I can say that my thought process had absolutely nothing to do with his stance on same-sex marriage.

Instead, I noticed a dip in his stats, as well as a decline in how his punts passed the “eye test” and thought his regression was pretty obvious.  On top of that he was aging, entering a contract year, in line to make a significant sum of money for a punter, and was coming off of surgery.  Those facts are enough to land many NFL players in the unemployment line whether or not they are outspoken civil rights advocates.

On Thursday, however, Chris Kluwe alleged that he was harassed by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for his stance on gay rights.  The allegations were made in a big way, using the ever-popular Deadspin as his platform, and he did not seemingly hold anything back.  He concluded that his tenure with the Vikings ended because Priefer was a bigot, while Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman enabled the behavior by being cowards, and brought his release right back into the limelight after a full season without him has come and gone.

In the article, Kluwe details meetings where Frazier asked him to quiet down and text messages from Rick Spielman asking him to fly under the radar.  He also talks of Vikings P.R. gurus trying to keep him unaware of media requests.

The most damning allegations are against Priefer, however, who Kluwe claims went way overboard with his language.  He says that Priefer commented that Kluwe would burn in hell with “the gays” for defending them and expressed his disgust at the thought of two men kissing.

“We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” Kluwe claims Priefer said at the start of a specialists meeting.

Kluwe doesn’t dance around his intentions for writing the article.  He hopes to end Mike Priefer’s NFL career for good.

I find it interesting that Kluwe is trying to get a man fired for using controversial language and extreme rhetoric in a debate about a social issue.  After all, Kluwe was thrust into the national spotlight for doing exactly that on many, many occasions.  Many in this country consider the gay rights debate to be over, with guys like Priefer bigots in the truest sense, and will see no hypocrisy in Kluwe’s ways.

They see it as “eye for an eye.”

That could very well end up being the outcome, too, as Kluwe’s release of his article couldn’t be timed worse for those he accuses.  Leslie Frazier is unemployed and thought to be a strong possibility to run Tampa Bay’s defense, but the “coward” label may give Lovie Smith pause when considering his options.  Rick Spielman is trying to attract top-notch coaching candidates to his vacancy to save bring his franchise out of the cellar, but coaches usually aren’t too eager to run away with the circus.

Meanwhile, Priefer could very well end up on the outside of the Vikings organization, looking in.  The Vikings released a statement that said they are going to investigate Kluwe’s allegations and that they do not tolerate discrimination of any sort.  While the team officially reiterated that Kluwe was cut for no other reason than 0n-field performance, they also say they will take the allegations very seriously and that they will eventually have more to say on the matter.

For a guy that was thought to be someone the Vikings wanted to retain, and was even mentioned by some as a head coaching possibility, Priefer has a lot to lose if owner Zygi Wilf is as supportive to Kluwe’s cause as the article indicates. After losing his job in Minnesota and being unable to win a job in Oakland, however, Kluwe had little to lose by airing his feelings at this point.  Some might even argue he had something to gain.

Regardless of where anyone falls on the social issue of gay rights, it is inexcusable for a person in a position of power to belittle his employee for holding personal beliefs.  That isn’t a matter of opinion.  That is law.  For this reason, it seems likely that Priefer is in line for some sensitivity training, an attitude adjustment, and maybe even some job searching.

Priefer may have some defenses in his pocket, however, and the rest of this story has yet to unfold.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Priefer doesn’t flat out deny Kluwe’s accusations and move on, like some might expect, but instead takes to the media in an attempt to clear his name.

Maybe he won’t, though.  Maybe his superiors within the Vikings organization will tell him to “fly under the radar.”

And maybe he’ll listen.

UPDATE:  Well, that was fast.  No sooner did I get this article posted did Mike Priefer issue the following statement regarding the situation:

“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. 

I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. 

The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.

The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children. 

I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.”

Apparently I was wrong, he did decide to go the complete denial route.

 

 

The one promise Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman gave media and fans regarding the hiring of the next head coach was a willingness to conduct an extensive search that includes 13 different possible categories.

 Off the record, I’m betting one of those categories include looking at former Vikings’ coaches or former coaches that have served on the same staff with Rick Spielman. Former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has already surfaced as a possible candidate to replace Leslie Frazier.

 So, I decided to do a little search to look for a few under-the-radar names that might have a connection to Spielman or the Vikings. My search also includes consideration to any connections to a possible future franchise quarterback that the Vikings might be scouting in the 2014 NFL draft. This is what I found.

In today’s society and culture, consumer’s seem to crave drama, and are willing to pay good money to see it unfold.  Whether it is our television programming, political races, or professional sports we collectively want to see one human essentially do battle with another.  Today, Leslie Frazier’s departure from Minnesota likely left a few NFL consumer’s unsatisfied, and when the purple history books are written his firing will be as forgettable as his three seasons as the team’s head coach.

Frazier is widely respected within NFL circles.  Since stepping out of the shadows and into his prominent role, Percy Harvin sticks out as the only person with first hand experience that seemed unappreciative of Frazier as a man, and even that observation is pure speculation and lacks concrete evidence.

Instead, Leslie Frazier left Winter Park shaking hands with those he knew and looked as dignified as ever.  When he got in his car, if he chose to turn on his radio, he likely heard quote after quote about how loved he is by his current and former players.  He probably noticed some local and national media members talk about how they never dealt with a head coach as classy as he is.  He surely heard the statements released by his former employers that included almost nothing but respectful endorsements of Frazier’s character.

Frazier himself, as could only be expected, exited his position with grace and composure by all accounts.  His words included only the most subtle hints at disagreements and dysfunction within the organization.  The organization, most notably Rick Spielman, also poked back a little bit to make clear that Frazier made decisions that led to his demise and that they are fully ready to start another chapter.

That was, and is, the extent of the drama with Leslie Frazier at the helm.  He didn’t win enough football games.  He didn’t make enough brilliant calls.  He couldn’t get enough out of some of his players.  He couldn’t make things click at the right times.  He did, however, run the Childress Circus out of town and replaced it with an overall sense of coolness.

In some circles, there are folks rolling their eyes at the “pity party” that ensued following the news of Frazier’s departure, but I think to get annoyed is to miss the point.  Few argue that Frazier should have been retained, or that he did enough to keep his job, but almost everyone is willing to let the man walk away with his dignity and his personal pride.

In the last few weeks we have seen an NFC North coach curse out his hometown fans.  We’ve seen a midwest team fire a coach that was able to make a respectable run with perhaps the only quarterback situation worse than Minnesota’s.  We’ve seen hundreds of reporters flock to the Nation’s capitol to watch a father and his son lose their jobs.  We’ve seen plenty of things that will steal all of the headlines while the Vikings quietly move on to evaluating their options.

The coaching search sounds like it will be extensive and time-consuming.  We will have lots of fun sifting through all of the options and all of the rumors.  We will debate who is the best fit, what each candidate brings to the table, and we will all hope the future is bright.  There is plenty of time for that.

Right now, though, I am still processing the events that have taken place since yesterday’s win closed out the Metrodome one final time.  I’m certainly not crying about it all, it is no “pity party” on this end of your computer screen, but there is no doubt that this firing doesn’t entirely feel right.

The way Frazier’s career with the Vikings has ended, the manner in which it all took place, is perhaps the most shining example of why he shouldn’t be out of work for long if he chooses.  The respectful quietness also makes me wonder if this decision won’t eventually end up looking like one of Rick Spielman’s worst.

Good luck, Leslie… from one Vikings fan with a computer.

 

 I predicted a Vikings’ win against the Bears in week 13… and now I’m having those same sensations again this week.

 The Bengals are 9-5 and setting on top of the AFC North standings in part by winning all 6 of their home games in Cincinnati this season. At Paul Brown Stadium the Kittens have beaten Pittsburgh, Greenbay, New England, NY Jets, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The Bengals have scored over 40 points in each of their last three home games. The Vikings on the other hand are only averaging 22 points per game in their last three road outings.

 On paper this looks like an easy win for the Bengals, right? Yes, and I bet the Eagles were thinking the same thing last week too.

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