Leslie Frazier chose his words carefully Friday morning and wants it known that he plans to handle his awkward contract situation in the most professional manner possible. But there is no question the Vikings’ decision not to speak with Frazier’s agent this offseason about a potential extension left the head coach both agitated and confused.
True to character, Frazier won’t air his complaints publicly. And so when asked about the team’s odd decision to only exercise the 2014 option on his contract without initiating talks on a longer-term deal, Frazier simply shrugged.
“I’ve got to concentrate on 2013 and getting our team and our coaches ready to have a great season,” he said Friday from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “That’s what’s most important. And that’s really the only thing that’s important. So that’s where my focus will be.”
Frazier also downplayed the possibility of any tension or awkwardness that may have been created.
“I moved past it,” he said. “It is what it is and I’ve got to concentrate on getting our team ready for this season. The most important thing for me and the best thing that I can do for our team is to really focus on getting our guys ready to have a great season.”
It’s not just that Frazier led the Vikings to 10 wins and an unexpected NFC playoff berth last season, it’s that his leadership proved galvanizing throughout 2012, most evident when the Vikings closed the regular season with four straight victories to secure a wild card berth.
Just as most experts figured the Vikings to be an NFC bottom feeder heading into last season, the prevailing thought in early December was that the team was left for dead after a 23-14 loss in Green Bay. But Frazier’s squad rallied the next week with a convincing victory over a Bears team that had beaten them by 18 points just two weeks earlier. Then came dominant road wins in St. Louis and Houston and a season-closing 37-34 victory over the division champion Packers.
Frazier figured his efforts would be rewarded with a long-term contract extension. Instead, owners Zygi and Mark Wilf opted only to exercise that 2014 option, a half-hearted vote of confidence that left Frazier and agent Bob Lamonte stunned.
Frazier had believed some negotiations would take place at the very least.
“What I believe and what actually is is what you have to deal with,” he said. “You guys know the reality. And that’s what I want to deal with, the reality of the situation.”
Frazier would prefer Lamonte handle any public commentary on the situation and said he understands his duty of focusing in on his coaching responsibilities to be a true leader for his players and coaches.
“I can’t ever forget that,” Frazier said. “They derive a lot of their energy from me. So I have to make sure that I’m focused on what we’ve got to get done so we can have a great year.”
Technically, Frazier now has two years left on his deal. But with NFL head coaches rarely entering the final year of a contract without an extension, 2013 will essentially become another contract year.