Collaboration will be key for Frazier and Spielman

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2011 - 7:52 AM

The pair's working relationship has intensified since the Vikings made their coaching change -- and so far, so good.

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Vikings VP Rick Spielman.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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INDIANAPOLIS - A reporter was asking Vikings coach Leslie Frazier about his working relationship with Rick Spielman on Friday just as the team's vice president of player personnel approached.

"The thing about Rick Spielman is he thinks he's a comedian in his second life," Frazier said, jokingly, making sure Spielman could hear.

"If you don't laugh in this business, you'll die," Spielman responded.

The lighthearted exchange at the NFL scouting combine provided a glimpse into what appears to be a good combination. The important question is: Will this camaraderie continue in the coming months?

Before Brad Childress was fired as coach in November, he also served in some ways as a de facto general manager. Childress had a clause in his contract that gave him control of the 53-man roster.

With Frazier, no such clause is known to exist. Owner Zygi Wilf is hoping Frazier and Spielman will be able to reach a consensus in their decision-making. The test run came last season when Frazier served as interim coach.

"We've had good communication from the moment that I was placed in that role," said Frazier, who got the job full time a day after the regular season ended. "We've talked about a number of different things and being able to go back and forth and work through some issues. It's been positive, been real good, and I expect it to continue to be that way."

Said Spielman: "I would just say that I'm looking forward ... not that I didn't look forward to working with Brad. Me and Brad worked well together. But I'm also looking forward to working with Leslie and the communication that we have had since he became the interim coach. The process, the vital part of our offseason planning happened over the last three or four weeks. Working with Leslie in that setting, I know me and Leslie are going to work very, very well together."

Spielman, whose title stayed the same, said final decisions will involve himself, Frazier and ownership. "I know you know the Wilfs, and everybody is not real big on structure at our place," Spielman said, alluding to Wilf's desire for his employees to be able to reach decisions as a group. "I'm doing the personnel side of it. Leslie is coaching. We work together."

Frazier acknowledges that when it comes to the draft, Spielman and his scouts have very good knowledge of players, and thus he wouldn't have a problem going with their recommendation should there be a difference of opinion. Spielman, meanwhile, knows the importance of getting the coaches' input and not forcing a player on them.

What will be really interesting to see is how the 53-man roster is selected. Coaches often want to win now. Executives, meanwhile, are more likely to have an eye toward the future. Frazier points out that because he and Spielman frequently discuss the roster makeup, there shouldn't be any big surprises when the time comes to make cuts.

Asked if he and Spielman have had their first spat, Frazier said no but seemed to know it will happen.

"I'm sure there are going to be times where he may see it one way, I may see it another," he said. "That happens, that's not a bad thing. You don't want to be around all people that say, 'Yes, Leslie, you're right, yes, Leslie.' That's not a good thing. But I feel good about the fact that Rick is a stand-up guy, good person, and when you have that, you can work through whatever issues there are."

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