You wonder if Leslie Frazier would like to go back to the good ol’ days, when the Metrodome roof collapsed, a snowstorm stranded his team in Philadelphia and he was forced to make two trips in one season to Detroit, a clear violation of the NFL efforts to protect employees’ mental health.
Frazier won three games in that season, 2011. Somehow he kept his wits.
Now he is 1-7 and without a contract extension he probably felt due after making the playoffs last year. He is working without a proven quarterback, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, which, if he were a NASCAR driver, would be like driving on three flats.
In the last week or so, he is heard about his players second-guessing play-calling, and learned of two NFL head coaches, Denver’s John Fox and Houston’s Gary Kubiak, winding up in the hospital. Fox suffered a heart attack. Kubiak suffered what has been termed a “mini-stroke,” collapsing on the sideline at halftime.
Another of Frazier’s coaching peers, Miami’s Joe Philbin, is accruing blame for being the head coach of a roster that includes world-class lout Richie Incognito.
One of Frazier’s predecessors, Mike Tice, was fired in part because his players threw a wild party on a boat. Another, Brad Childress, was fired in part because he burned bridges within the organization.
Frazier has worked for renowned workaholic Andy Reid and reluctant workaholic Tony Dungy. He played for Mike Ditka. Frazier has gained a clear understanding of the requirements of the job:
Win games. Manage public perception. Hire excellent lieutenants. Get along with your bosses. Take responsibility for the actions of about 60 young men who possess fame, free time and discretionary income. Win more games. And remain healthy enough to withstand the strains of the job.
Frazier has handled winning, losing, controversy, criticism and career worries with grace.
“I’ve been thinking about it more and more after what happened to Gary, who is a good friend, and then John,’’ he said. “This job can overwhelm you with responsibility. It’s a lot more than just the X’s and O’s. I still try to get a workout in at some point. I still try to communicate with someone outside the building who can provide advice and balance.
“I still get on my knees and pray to the Lord to help me to make good decisions each day. But it can be overwhelming. Especially when you’re going through a difficult season, like Gary has had in Houston.’’
Joe Gibbs, maybe the greatest coach who ever lived, won three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks. Gibbs also might have damaged the home lives and health of thousands of coaches. He made it fashionable to sleep in the office.
Frazier doesn’t do that. “I wish I could get home at a regular time, but I can’t always say I’m actually going to leave at a certain time,’’ he said. “I don’t care how long I stay, I’m going home.’’
This week, he asked some of his key players to voice their complaints only within the organization. In his seven years with the Vikings, Frazier has lost his temper publicly perhaps only once, when he and Jared Allen argued on the sideline when Frazier was the defensive coordinator.
Does Frazier ever lose control behind the scenes?
“If I’m frustrated by something, I’ll let our players know,’’ he said. “But I don’t know if I ‘lose it.’ I hope not.”
The alleged brutal treatment of Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin by his teammate Incognito has bared the reality of the NFL life. Frazier doesn’t allow hazing. He treats his players like men. He tries to live a balanced life.
He’s an outlier, but like any other NFL coach, he will have to win games to prove that his way can work.