The tone surrounding Vikings coach Leslie Frazier's contract situation changed dramatically over the course of about 90 minutes Wednesday evening.
Reports of a multiyear extension that had been expected after a surprising playoff season brought with them congratulatory calls to Frazier's agent, Bob Lamonte. But Lamonte knew the reports were inaccurate because he and the Vikings hadn't even discussed an extension.
After some confusion, the Vikings issued a statement saying they had exercised a previously undisclosed one-year option that officially lengthened Frazier's contract through the 2014 season. Far from a multiyear extension, the move means the Vikings have chosen to address Frazier's long-term status after next season.
"There were no negotiations," Lamonte said. "They extended the option. That's it. You can't have a long-term deal if you can't negotiate."
Meanwhile, Vikings ownership continued to express satisfaction with Frazier while indicating that his future is secure.
"Coach Frazier has done a remarkable job in building a strong foundation for the Minnesota Vikings and creating a very positive future," Vikings owner and President Mark Wilf said in a release announcing the team's decision to exercise its one-year option. "We value his leadership and look forward to working with him for many years to come."
The move is puzzling in that it comes a month after Frazier and the Vikings shocked the league by going 10-6 and making the playoffs; the year before, they finished 3-13. For perspective, seven of the NFL's new coaching hires this offseason are first-year NFL head coaches who all got at least four-year deals.
For some perspective from the other side, consider what happened the last time the Wilf family gave a multiyear extension to a Vikings head coach. On Nov. 19, 2009, they extended Brad Childress' deal through the 2013 season. On Nov. 22, 2010, they fired him after a 3-7 start bottomed out with a 31-3 loss at home to the Packers.
Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman will discuss the contract on Friday. Spielman has voiced his support of Frazier numerous times over the past three seasons.
Frazier, hired as defensive coordinator in 2007 after predecessor Mike Tomlin left to become coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, took over as interim coach when Childress was fired. He went 3-3 and quickly had the interim tag dropped.
Unfortunately for Frazier, his first full season coincided with the NFL lockout, which wiped out nearly the entire offseason. With a washed-up veteran (Donovan McNabb) and a green banana rookie (Christian Ponder) for quarterbacks, the Vikings went 3-13, matching coach Les Steckel's 1984 team record for most losses in a season.
When the Vikings reported to training camp last July, Frazier was on the hot seat. Meanwhile, the Vikings were considered a rebuilding team with a suspect quarterback, unproven rookies at left tackle, free safety and kicker, no No. 1 receiver and a star player (Percy Harvin) who had asked to be traded a month earlier.
The Vikings were expected to finish at the bottom of the rugged NFC North for a third consecutive season. A 5-2 start was followed by another midseason slump by Ponder and Harvin's season-ending ankle injury after nine games.
The Vikings looked shaky at best when they were 6-6. But Frazier guided them to a 4-0 finish that including a playoff-clinching upset of the Packers at home in the regular-season finale. With Ponder sidelined because of an injury to his throwing arm, the Vikings were no match for the Packers in the wild-card game at Green Bay the following week.
Frazier is 16-23, including 0-1 in the playoffs, as Vikings coach.