Reusse: Frazier may be latest mistake of hasty Wilfs

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2011 - 12:35 PM

The Vikings owners have been quick with the trigger, but the results suggest patience from the start would have worked better.


Vikings coach Leslie Frazier went 3-3 as interim coach last year, but he's 2-10 since getting the job full-time.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Dennis Green was fired as the Vikings coach with one game remaining in the 2001 season. Mike Tice coached that game and wound up getting the job as Green's replacement.

The Vikings went from 5-11 in Green's last season to 6-10 for Tice in 2002. From there, Tice had these results:

2003: 9-7, and missing the playoffs on the last play of the season; 2004: 8-8, and backing into the playoffs and then upsetting Green Bay at Lambeau Field; and 2005: 9-7, which wasn't good enough for the playoffs.

There was also this: Owner Red McCombs was getting ready to sell the team, so Tice was low-balled at every turn for 2005 -- including the attempt to retain Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator.

Zygi Wilf had completed the purchase of the Vikings in late May. And Wilf was so eager to play owner that he fired Tice in an anteroom at the Metrodome, 20 minutes after the Vikings had defeated Chicago in the final game of the 2005 season.

It was a hasty decision -- based on the "Love Boat" embarrassment and Tice's ticket-scalping indiscretion, rather than an understanding that Tice could be a successful coach if given a fully funded roster and coaching staff.

The "can't-wait" approach with Tice was the start of a pattern. Zygi and his brother Mark met with Brad Childress, an assistant from Philadelphia, and decided immediately that he was the coach they wanted.

They gave perfunctory interviews to Ted Cottrell and Jim Caldwell, to satisfy the Rooney Rule, and then announced the hiring of Childress on Jan. 6, five days after Tice was fired.

To further demonstrate the Wilfs' level of due diligence, they hired Fran Foley in January to direct player personnel, and fired him in early May right after the draft.

It was a four-season climb, and it took the addition of Brett Favre, but Childress had the Vikings in the NFC title game at the end of the 2009 season.

One year later, Favre was acting his age as a quarterback, a desperate reach for Randy Moss had proven to be folly, and there were chants of "Fire Childress'' in the Metrodome.

As with Tice earlier, Zygi didn't pause to look at the big picture. He fired Childress with a 3-7 record -- and 10 months after the dramatic loss to the Saints.

Leslie Frazier coached the last six games of 2010 and went 3-3. He was given points for this, since the collapse of the Metrodome roof and a postponed game in Philadelphia caused a chaotic season-ending schedule.

Still, we have to ask: A) Did the Wilfs take a hard look at whether Frazier's phlegmatic manner would translate to being a head coach? And B) Did they interview other candidates, simply as a comparison to what Frazier had to offer?

The answers were A) no and B) no.

And remember, the Wilfs hadn't conducted an actual search when hiring Childress in 2006, so what we had were guys very experienced at selecting property managers and with thin résumés in taking a serious look at coaching candidates.

The Wilfs were hasty in firing Tice. They were hasty in hiring Childress. They were hasty in giving Childress a four-year contract extension at mid-season of 2009. They were hasty in firing Childress a year later because of hoots inside the Dome.

And, especially, they were hasty in giving a three-year contract to Frazier based on rookie quarterback Joe Webb winning a postponed game that he shouldn't have in Philadelphia.

The latest of these hasty decisions looks to be the worst. As a head coach, Frazier has the same overmatched aura as the Vikings' previous Les -- Steckel, the one-year wonder (3-13) of 1984.

It's one thing to have well-lubricated spectators chanting "Fire Childress" in a season of big disappointment. It's another to leave knowledgeable football guys shaking their heads from one Sunday to the next and muttering:

"What in the name of Marty Mornhinweg was Leslie thinking?''

Frazier is a nice fellow and a competent defensive coordinator, but as a head coach, well, put it this way:

The hasty twins, Zygi and brother Mark, would be far better off if Mike Tice was completing his 10th season on the job.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN.

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