Leslie Frazier finished fourth in NFL Coach of the Year voting in 2012. He received leaguewide praise for directing the largest turnaround in Vikings history, a year-to-year increase of seven victories. His benevolent approach served as a soothing influence for an organization that often produces the kind of goofy drama found in daytime soaps.
That same coach might lose his job.
A year removed from so many accolades, Frazier’s relatively short tenure as Vikings coach could end following Sunday’s season finale against Detroit in the Metrodome farewell.
Frazier’s contract expires after the 2014 season, but it’s unlikely that Vikings ownership would allow Frazier to coach a lame-duck season. That arrangement would create obvious distractions, and it would be unfair to have Frazier and his players face questions and speculation about the coach’s job status on a weekly basis.
Several national outlets have reported that the organization already has initiated conversations with potential replacements.
Frazier’s admission this week that he has not talked with Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf or General Manager Rick Spielman about his status does not bode well, either, because silence in these situations usually means change is forthcoming.
There’s no indication that Spielman’s job is in jeopardy, too, even though a few of his personnel decisions adversely impacted Frazier’s ability to win.
After all, Christian Ponder didn’t draft himself, Antoine Winfield didn’t cut himself and Josh Freeman didn’t sign himself.
In today’s pass-happy, high-scoring NFL, teams need to be solid at quarterback and in the secondary. The Vikings faced significant deficiencies in both areas. Frazier acknowledged his team’s issues at those positions and said “you better get those right” nowadays, but he politely declined to delve much deeper on that subject.
“It’s probably better for me to keep focused on getting the guys that we have playing to play,” Frazier said. “I think they’re playing hard and doing everything they can to help us to win.”
Frazier’s record reflects the level of fan frustration with his job performance.
He’s 20-33-1 since replacing Brad Childress with six games left in the 2010 season. A pair of long, dreary losing seasons sandwiched that surprising postseason appearance a year ago.
The fact that ownership only picked up Frazier’s one-year option rather than negotiate a contract extension last offseason underscored that this served as a “prove it” year for Frazier and his staff.
Lots of issues
Now the organization appears primed to initiate a significant makeover this offseason, one that’s not just limited to a coaching change. The Vikings likely will start over at quarterback in their never-ending quest to find stability at that position.
The drafting of Ponder 12th overall in 2011 was a huge swing-and-miss; the Freeman experiment, which started when he signed four games into the season after being released by Tampa Bay, failed; and Matt Cassel, if he chooses to return, can only be viewed as a temporary bridge until the next hopeful is in place.
The Vikings have 15 unrestricted free agents, meaning another roster shake-up looms. Their defense has only four surefire starters for next season — defensive end Brian Robison, linebacker Chad Greenway, safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes — and must be rebuilt.