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Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and coach Leslie Frazier.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

When the Vikings took the field Friday night to play the Buffalo Bills, their head coach remained on shaky ground with his contract. The team didn’t give Leslie Frazier an extension when that seemed likely during the offseason.

CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

Frazier

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Carroll

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Pitino

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Minnesota Vikings running back Joe Banyard (23) crossed the goal line for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com August 16, 2013, NFL Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY Minnesota Vikings vs. Buffalo Bills

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Hartman: Frazier's status worth watching

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • August 17, 2013 - 11:33 PM

No doubt it has been difficult to second-guess the Wilf family over the way they have run a first-class operation since they bought the Vikings six years ago.

They spent the big money when they acquired Jared Allen and signed several players, including Adrian Peterson, to big contracts.

Among other good moves they made was to elevate Rick Spielman to the position of general manager, and it paid off with one great draft of players in 2012 and indications so far that the 2013 crop will be equally strong.

However, it is hard not to second-guess the decision they made in not extending the contract of Leslie Frazier. The Vikings picked up the option for the 2014 season, but head coaches in the NFL rarely enter the final year of a contract without an extension, so 2013 is essentially a contract year.

The Wilfs did get hurt financially when they fired Brad Childress when he had three years left on his contract.

Frazier is one of the most popular coaches among the players in the history of the franchise, and when it was revealed that he hadn’t received an extension, it upset some of the players.

As the season develops, it will be interesting to see whether Frazier’s contract extension has any effect on the record of the team. Will it have any effect on the way the players perform knowing that Frazier’s contract situation is tenuous?

Incidentally, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is operating without a contract beyond this season.

So maybe the Wilfs and the Pohlad family, owner of the Twins, had reasons for what they did.

Won’t alternate quarterbacks

Northwestern has enjoyed great success over the years running in two quarterbacks on offense.

With Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner battling for the starting job, Gophers coach Jerry Kill was asked if he would consider a two-quarterback system.

“We’re not going to alternate every few series or anything like that,” Kill said. “We’ll have our plan. That’s all I say. We won’t be alternating quarterbacks every couple of series and things like that.

“I’ve never been real good at that, and I don’t think most people — they’re a little bit different on how they do it and everyone has their ways to do things and I’m not going to give ours away. But we’ll have a way. The best way to do it is we’ll utilize the talent we have.”

Twins miss Carroll

Twins infielders were sad the team traded veteran infielder Jamey Carroll to Kansas City last week.

“He is probably the biggest help we’ve ever had, a guy who has 11, almost 12 years in the big leagues,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “He’s outstanding. He has a track record of being a sure-handed utility player and even with the great defense that he has he has such knowledge about the game, he’s so knowledgeable.

“He’s all the time talking to us and trying to help us with every aspect of the game. To have a guy like that sharing the same position with me and Flori [shortstop Pedro Florimon] only benefits us.”

Pitino and Smith rankings

ESPN recently put out its early power rankings for the major conferences in college basketball, and it believes that Richard Pitino inherited a much better situation than former Gophers coach Tubby Smith did at Texas Tech.

Seth Greenberg put the Gophers at No. 8 in the early Big Ten rankings, writing that “Pitino inherits a versatile backcourt in Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. … The two guards complement each other well. Andre is capable of knocking down the three-pointer while Austin is one of the better slashing open-court players in the Big Ten. They will be joined by FIU transfer Malik Smith, a 6-2 guard who averaged 14.1 points a game last season and will be eligible immediately. The three-guard lineup will fit well into Pitino’s running, pressing style of play. If the Gophers can get some frontcourt help, they could be a sleeper in the Big Ten.”

Meanwhile Smith’s squad was placed dead last in the Big 12. Fran Fraschilla wrote: “To say that veteran coach Tubby Smith has inherited a rebuilding situation is an understatement. But while he lost promising freshman point guard Josh Gray, essentially four starters return for the Red Raiders.”

Faith in Decker

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said he is feeling even better heading into his year second year in Denver, and a lot of his confidence comes from the receivers on his team, including former Gophers standout Eric Decker.

“I do feel better and I think it’s because I have better familiarity with my receivers,” Manning told XM Radio. “When you know how Eric Decker is going to come out of a route or how Demaryius Thomas is going to come out of a break, you should throw the ball with a little more confidence.”

Jottings

Two Jerry Kill protégés — Jason Schepler, who played for Kill at Northern Illinois, and MarQueis Gray, who played for Kill with the Gophers — are competing for tight end positions with the 49ers.

 • The ESPN Cy Young Predictor, which has accurately picked the Cy Young Award winner in each league over the past two seasons, had Joe Nathan as the second-most likely winner in the American League and fellow former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano as the seventh-most likely winner in the National League. Nathan began Saturday 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA to go along with 36 saves in 48⅔ innings for Texas. Liriano is 13-5 with a 2.68 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 114 innings for Pittsburgh despite missing the first month of the season.

 • Tom Windle, the Gophers pitcher who was a second-round draft pick by the Dodgers, is a sensational 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in 10 games with Class A Great Lakes in the Midwest League.

 • Andy Henkemeyer, a former outfielder for Gophers baseball who graduated in 2013, has signed with the St. Paul Saints.

 • Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, discussing his Spanish national team’s hopes for the Eurocup this month: “None [of us] has said that we are not going to Slovenia for the gold medal. Last year I followed the team from a distance, with envy, and that experience gives me more strength to fight for a goal [which I consider] achievable.”

 • Former Gophers basketball player Dan Coleman signed with Groningen in Holland after playing with Kataja in Finland and Sioux Falls in the NBA Development League last season.

  • Friday, the Big Ten Network filmed the entire Gophers football practice, and the network will showcase the practice this Friday.

 

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