Leslie Frazier: All about 'the big picture'

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 18, 2012 - 9:55 AM
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Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.

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The Vikings are enjoying the weekend off and regrouping on the final day of their bye week. They're off to a surprising 6-4 start and, if all breaks right, could be playing their next game in Chicago with first place in the NFC North on the line. This past week, Vikings beat writer Dan Wiederer sat down for a 1-on-1 interview with coach Leslie Frazier. Here are excerpts from that discussion:

Q You've brought up April 23 many times this season, the first day that players could be back at the facility for offseason conditioning and training. What stuck out to you that day?

A The attendance. In all my time in Minnesota, we never had anywhere near the type of attendance that we had when we started up this year. And that was something I had challenged our guys with at the end of our 2011 season. I met with each one of them individually right here in my office before they went their different ways for the offseason. We talked extensively about coming back if they were serious about getting this thing turned in the right direction. And when more than 90 percent of our team showed up, I said to myself, "Wow. This is big. We've got a chance."

 

Q So you hit a skid a few weeks back. That Thursday nighter against Tampa Bay was certainly a sobering loss. Then you go to Seattle, another double-digit loss. For you, what was the sense on how to make sure a collapse didn't occur?

A I had to keep reminding them how long the season is. Teams go through stretches like that. It just so happens ours came in the middle of the season. ... We had to find out what we did wrong, fix it and then concentrate on this particular game. In our case, that was Detroit. ... I told our veteran guys that we've seen it, where you go into a spiral and you can't get out of it. So I had to get our guys to a point of, "See the big picture. Your goals are still within your grasp. But we've got to take care of business at home against Detroit." And they bought into it.

 

Q Coming into this season, you turn the huddle over to a 24-year-old quarterback [Christian Ponder] with 10 NFL starts. How as a head coach do you prepare yourself to be patient?

A Going in knowing there were going to be moments where Christian would struggle, I always believed that we had to do some extra things around him to help him. Because there are going to be days where he's not going to be on point. ... So the greatest challenge I've had is with our staff and with our players to make them realize that this is a team game. It's not about one player. Even though they may hear people criticizing the quarterback, we can do some things around him to help him and support him. And if they understand that component of it, then they'll never just point the finger at him and say this is all about him. It's about us.

 

Q How do you get Christian to buy into that patience?

A I try to encourage him and let him know up front that even though you may hear different people saying things, until you hear me come over and say, "Christian, you're not the guy" or whatever, block that stuff out. I reminded him that when we drafted him in April of 2011, I told him this. I said: "Remember, you sat here in my office after we brought you in town and did our press conference, I told you you were going to be the guy who leads us to a championship in Minnesota. That hasn't changed. Your mind can't ever get off of that."

 

Q It's amazing to see where Adrian [Peterson] is at through 10 games. You mentioned this past week being struck by his humility more than anything else. What stands out?

A Just seeing how he's responded this season to his success, this is not about him. He's not around pumping his chest and saying, "Look what I did." He's all about winning. ... I've been around a lot of talented guys. For most of them, it's a whole lot more about their stats. Even when you lose the game, they're griping. "I didn't get enough throws. I didn't get enough carries." Not Adrian. If we don't win, the first person he looks at his himself. I've never heard him say, "This guy should have done that. That guy should have done this." He's saying, "Man, what could I have done better to help us win?" ... You get 53 guys thinking like that? You've got a special team.

 

Q What's impressed you the most this season with the evolution of Percy Harvin as a player?

A He's stepping back and seeing a bigger picture where it's not just about "me" anymore, it's about winning in this league. Because when you win, all those accolades and dreams and goals you have will come. But when you're on a losing team even with big numbers, it's never any fun. So he's gotten to that point now where being a good teammate and winning has become more important than the personal goals.

 

Q Obviously that episode in Seattle where he was animated on the sideline and barking in your ear was well-publicized. I'm sure behind the scenes, you discussed with him the manner in which that was handled, right?

A No question. He and I did talk about it. Percy's a competitive guy like so many of our guys. And he's not the only guy who wants to vent and speak out about a situation. But other guys find the right forum. So that's what we talked about. ... And he understands that. Which is another sign of his growing up. He said, "Ya know what? You're right. I need to handle that differently going forward." ... When you've been through this as a player and a coach, I've been blessed to be around some very competitive people. And you know it's well-intentioned. I know it's not going to look good publicly. I know people will look at it and judge it. But what's most important is I know the person, I know his heart, I know what he stands for. That's all that really matters to me. And whatever way people judge it, we have to deal with it.

Q You talk a lot about seeing the big picture of a season but then also being able to have that micro-focus on the next game. How do you retain a balance?

A That's where I come into play as the head coach. To bring everything back into focus. Even though I'll talk to the guys on Monday about where we are at this juncture of the season, I'll have to bring it back to the focus on the Chicago Bears. And get our guys to concentrate on that and that alone. That's a part of sitting in this seat where you have to be able to bring that big picture focus back to that moment. That's exactly what we had to do going into our game against Detroit. Same thing here.

To read the entire transcript, go to startribune.com/vikings.

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