Sunday, March 29, 2015
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leslie frazier

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.

If Leslie Frazier’s current record wasn’t enough to convince you that he is coaching his last games in Minnesota, then today’s report that the Vikings are already putting out feelers ought to do the trick.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Vikings have reached out to Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, who served as an assistant with the Patriots from 2007 to 2011.  He not only has some familiarity with Vikings rookie linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, but boasts a successful pedigree of two tight end sets and offensive innovation.

O’Brien seems like a logical candidate for the Vikings to check out, but the odds are long that he is the next head coach of the team.  His Penn State contract reportedly requires an NFL team to buy him out to the tune of $7.73 million.  There are also some unsubstantiated rumors floating around that O’Brien actually has no intent to once again join the NFL coaching ranks and wants to stay put.

The Vikings aren’t the only team to contact O’Brien.  The Houston Texans, who currently have a head coaching vacancy, have also reached out to the college coach.

If things get more serious regarding O’Brien we will more extensively explore who he is as a coach and a man.  In the meantime, this story is more about confirming that the Vikings appear poised to usher in a new era of Minnesota football by doing away with their current staff.

This Vikings season is just depressing.  Not only did Sunday’s tie against Green Bay and their fourth round quarterback seem completely unfulfilling, it left us scheduled for the fourth overall draft pick instead of the first.

The failures on the field this season are disappointing and only serve to magnify the failures off the field, and in the front office, every time they become evident.  If the Vikings were three games above .500 right now, and the playoffs within reach, the arrest and subsequent release of an inconsistent reserve would barely register as mentionable.

Instead, Monday’s news of A.J. Jefferson’s domestic assault arrest provides even more venom for frustrated fans to spit at Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and the Wilf empire as a whole.  Jefferson has seldom shown us anything better than terrible since Spielman traded away a late-round 2013 pick to obtain him and the arrest made it easy for them to part ways with him.

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I hoped Frazier would not be fired after this season was the lack of arrests and other off-field distractions plaguing the team since he took over.  Frazier had virtually had no players arrested under his watch for over a year until Jerome Simpson was tagged with a DWI last week.

With players landing in the clink two weeks in a row, and Frazier’s on-field product looking mighty miserable, even a supportive sort of guy like me is running out of excuses for the calmest coach in the NFL.

The Vikings needed help in the secondary before Jefferson’s release.  Now it seems all but certain we’ll see a new face on this roster before the upcoming Chicago game.

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