Souhan: Living large won't fly with new sheriff Frazier in town

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2011 - 7:49 PM

Two easily swallowed myths got flattened like a tackling dummy Tuesday afternoon, when the Vikings released left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

Myth No. 1: Leslie Frazier, a soft-spoken man, would become a player-friendly leader who would coax rather than command the Vikings in his first year as their full-fledged head coach.

Myth No. 2: The Vikings, two years after playing in the NFC Championship Game and in the midst of groveling for a stadium, would do everything within their power to win this year.

The release of McKinnie destroys these notions.

Despite his many flaws, McKinnie was a good player at a vital position. Without him, the Vikings offensive line, already a source of concern, could be quite mediocre. That would be a problem on any team. On this team, one dependent on running back Adrian Peterson and forced to break in two new quarterbacks, it could be fatal.

Releasing McKinnie signals that Frazier, like many of his more emotional and demonstrative peers, will follow the traditional script of first-year football coaches. He will be willing to sacrifice victories to instill his culture. He will sacrifice individual players to make his points.

I once asked Tony Dungy how he could inspire players without ever raising his voice. He said, in that quiet way of his, "Well, I remind them that if they don't want to do things our way, I will cut them."

Some people don't have to scream to be heard.

Frazier asked McKinnie to get into shape during the offseason. McKinnie made enthusiastic promises. Then McKinnie showed up in Mankato in shape. That is, in the shape of an amoeba with feet.

Frazier did not scream. Frazier let his team know that such behavior will not be tolerated.

By making such a drastic decision, Frazier diminished his chances of winning this season. That, like establishing his power and standards, is not out of character for a first-year head coach who believes he has job security.

Remember, Jimmy Johnson was able to pull off the Herschel Heist in 1989 because he had a 10-year contract with the Cowboys and didn't care whether he won one or six games in his first season.

Denny Green started chopping dead wood on the Vikings roster upon arrival, as did Brad Childress. This is the way of NFL coaches. This is the way they establish their authority. The next time Frazier orders a player to get into shape, that player will remember McKinnie.

This decision might have been more difficult if the Vikings were on the verge of a run to the Super Bowl. They are not. They are trying to rebuild on the fly, while remaining competitive, which is the most difficult trick in pro sports.

If they were really selling out to win this year, they would not have spent their first two draft picks on a quarterback who probably will need time to develop and a tight end who is recovering from a hamstring injury. Those picks were investments, not Band-Aids.

Late Tuesday afternoon, McKinnie told TMZ that he asked for his release because he's worried about his cholesterol. Had he taken care of his conditioning and cholesterol this summer, he would be set to make millions. Instead, he's suddenly seeing the value in taking a year off?

Bryant: We know what your social life is like, because you tell us all about it via Twitter. We know how much money you spend on a night out. This was the best job you were ever going to have; this was the only way you were going to be able to fund your lifestyle.

Let's see if your South Beach entourage still finds you charming when you're buying them cans of Schlitz instead of bottles of Cristal.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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