Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Leslie Frazier: Can a nice guy finish first?

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 18, 2012 - 7:29 PM
More often than not, Leslie Frazier's press conferences begin with a heartfelt compliment of Mother Nature. "Another beautiful day here in Minnesota," he'll say with a smile.

Which is typically followed by a glowing commendation of that day's spirited practice plus five or 10 minutes of back-and-forth during which the Vikings coach entertains all questions -- well-thought, bad or downright clichéd -- as if they are truly insightful.

"That's a good question," Frazier will often reply. "As a matter of fact, we were just talking about that as a staff last night."

The next time Frazier glowers at a reporter will be the first. Which often leaves members of the Vikings media horde scratching their heads.

Wait, an NFL head coach who is never rude, irritable nor condescending?

And it's not just the media marveling at Frazier's pleasant disposition. Up and down the roster, Vikings players gush about how communicative their head coach is, how he sets clear expectations and has a knack for unifying the group.

That's everyone from 35-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield, whose entering his 14th season with Frazier his fifth NFL head coach ...

"He has such universal respect because he respects us as grown men," Winfield said. "And he has a way of tapping into guys and keeping the lines of communication open."

... to rookie Josh Robinson, who is 21 and eager to break into the league playing for a guy with whom he felt an instant bond due to their Christian connection.

"I could see his faith in the way he spoke and how he was always trying to say things that were encouraging," Robinson said. "And I really appreciate that he's always implementing things in players' minds that will help them grow and get better."

Yep, Frazier might just be the most likeable head coach in pro football. And while such kindness won't directly catalyze the Vikings' return to relevance, it might help buy Frazier extra time to see his vision through.

With the Vikings coming off a disastrous 3-13 season and undertaking a youth-infused rebuilding project, Frazier will need all the time he can get.

A postseason run in 2012 would be considered a miracle. Heck, a third-place finish in the NFC North will be deemed a major accomplishment.

So with Frazier in the second year of a three-year contract, his approval rating will need to count for something as the losses promise to pile up again.

But just how much patience will there be from fans and, more importantly, the front office, if in early December the Vikings are stumbling toward the finish line of their third consecutive losing season?

Put another way: What does Frazier have to do to keep his job?

Those are two questions that will loom for the rest of 2012. Yet those are questions Frazier would rather not entertain.

"I can't get caught up in that conversation," he said. "The one thing I have to be invested in is getting our players to improve. That's what our team is concentrating on. Anything other than that is a distraction. And I can't be distracted."

The great communicator

At this stage, Frazier does not need to win over the locker room. And, to date, all indications are his relationship with General Manager Rick Spielman is as harmonious as it could possibly be.

There's not the constant dysfunction that existed when Brad Childress was coach and Spielman was still in the role of vice president of player personnel, forced to cede authority on roster moves and often failing to soften Childress' stubbornness.

Now, such friction has dissipated. In fact, before being promoted to head coach in November 2010, Frazier told Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf that, ultimately, he needed a general manager in place to succeed.

"I had seen what that vacuum had done here in Minnesota," Frazier said. "It created problems. You need that hierarchy."

Then, when Spielman finally was promoted this January, Frazier immediately went about syncing his vision with the GM and Vikings scouts. He called lengthy meetings to discuss the kind of roster he wanted. He went position by position, delivering detailed instructions on what skills and traits he needed at each spot to make his systems work.

"We would talk about that in the past," Frazier said, "but never as detailed as we did this time around where we'd spend two, three, four hours on one position. That was just to make sure the scouts understood that, for what we do, this is what fits."

Frazier and Spielman also unified a vision to pursue players who were tough and smart and, most importantly, passionate and self-motivated. Enter rookies Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison and the rest of the 2012 draft class. Same goes for notable free-agent signees John Carlson and Chris Carr.

"You get those character guys," Frazier said, "and now you have a better chance to ride through some of the highs and lows you have in a season. If you just have a bunch of talented guys who aren't smart and don't have good character, when things start going awry, you'll have your hands full trying to pull it together."

Added Spielman: "The level of communication and cooperation Leslie has brought has been off the charts. We were in agreement with how we wanted to shape this team. And since the spring, he and our coaches have been outstanding in working with and developing our guys."

Second-guessing galore

The next step in Frazier's maturation will be proving his reliance on intelligent, hard-working troops can consistently produce victories. That's the only benchmark that truly matters.

Frazier's first full season in charge not only ended with a disheartening 3-13 record, but also included a handful of moments that left him open to sharp criticism.

Overall, with the NFL lockout creating an offseason that Frazier called "helter-skelter," the assembly of the 2011 Vikings was itself somewhat haphazard. Frazier's push to bring quarterback Donovan McNabb on board, for example, proved to be ill-advised and backfired quickly.

Then, in terms of game management, Frazier subsequently stubbed his toe in several big moments.

He bungled his clock management during the final three minutes of a 24-20 Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay.

A week later, the unsuccessful fourth quarter move to feed Toby Gerhart the ball on fourth-and-1 instead of Adrian Peterson created more frustration during a 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions.

In Week 12, Frazier’s failure to call for a replay review of a Percy Harvin run that should have been ruled a touchdown proved costly in a 24-14 loss in Atlanta.

The next week his unwillingness to let the Broncos walk in for a defense-free touchdown in the final minute instead allowed Denver to run the clock down and boot a gimme 23-yard tiebreaking field goal as time expired.

At points, Frazier suffered through the continuous struggles and wondered if he was on the verge of being overwhelmed.

“But I had to back up and say, 'You know what, don’t be yourself up over all these things,’” Frazier said. “I told myself, 'You’ve been successful in so many different venues in the past. So you’ve got to sit back and look at the things that are occurring and figure out what we have to do to get our team in position to win.’”

Now, Frazier is certain that since last season ended, he has had far more clarity to mold the team.

He also understands his growth will have to show up in the final scores if he is to retain support.

Maintaining the players' near unanimous backing will help. Keeping the Wilfs and Spielman on his side will be even more important.

Still, neither the owners nor the new GM seem to be battling itchy trigger fingers. Publicly, they have promised patience, refusing to set a victory total Frazier needs to reach to be deemed safe.

More than anything, they say, Frazier will be judged on his ability to keep this team competitive and invested in developing under the current staff's plans.

Frazier's confidence that his way of doing things is the right way? It stems from a track record that helped him win a Super Bowl as a player in Chicago then rise through the coaching ranks in unique fashion -- from stops as a college head coach in the NAIA to an assistant job in the Big Ten to jobs as a position coach, coordinator and special assistant to the head coach with the Eagles, Bengals, Colts and Vikings.

"I kept telling myself, 'I've been in these situations before,' whether it be as a player or a coach," Frazier said. "And I've always been able to get it figured out and get it going in the right direction. ... You hear these negative rumblings from the outside. But I just know from my history in tough situations, I've always been able to get it figured it out."

Frazier says that with a nod and a smile.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 3 Top 3rd Inning
San Francisco 1
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 2 3rd Prd 19:23
Toronto 0
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd 19:12
Montreal 2
New Jersey 2 3rd Prd 16:34
Ottawa 1
Dallas 4 3rd Prd 13:06
NY Islanders 4
Detroit 2 3rd Prd 10:25
Philadelphia 2
Chicago 1 2nd Prd 15:29
St. Louis 1
Pittsburgh 1 2nd Prd 9:56
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd 13:21
Minnesota 5
Florida 0 1st Prd 17:19
Arizona 0
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 52 4th Qtr 6:17
Washington St 23
Texas-El Paso 24 3rd Qtr 1:57
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 3 3rd Qtr 9:26
Colorado State 31
Syracuse 6 3rd Qtr 10:41
(21) Clemson 3
Texas State 7 3rd Qtr 1:06
ULM 18
(3) Ole Miss 7 3rd Qtr
(24) LSU 3
(4) Alabama 27 3rd Qtr
Tennessee 10
So Carolina 21 3rd Qtr
(5) Auburn 21
(13) Ohio State 10 2nd Qtr 9:49
Penn State 0
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 2nd Half 27:00
New England 1
Portland 0 1st Half 20:00
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 13 1:45
Winnipeg 17
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Sunday in Tampa Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close