Hartman: Dumping Frazier won't solve all of Vikings' issues

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 11:01 PM
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The Vikings are guaranteed to have a losing record for the third time in four seasons, but coach Leslie Frazier oversaw a playoff team a year ago and has a year remaining on his contract.

Photo: McKENNA EWEN • mckenna.ewen@startribune.com,

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The Vikings are 3-2-1 over their past six games. By beating Cincinnati on Sunday and then defeating the Lions, who rarely win here, in the season finale, maligned coach Leslie Frazier could show why he is still the right man for the job, keeping the team competitive most of the season with four losses by a total of 12 points.

Considering all that, do you fire a coach who has one year left on his contract, on the basis of how close this team has come to having two playoff-caliber seasons in a row?

No, close doesn’t count, unfortunately. But I’ve watched more Vikings games than anybody around and would conclude that this has also been one of the unluckiest teams in franchise history.

So if you’re Zygi and Mark Wilf, do you make Frazier the third coach you’ve fired in nine years — including Mike Tice and Brad Childress — and hire someone who is going to demand a long-term contract for a lot of money? And if he is a coach who is in high demand by other teams, the Vikings might not interest him.

I can’t believe the Wilfs would keep Frazier unless he made some changes in the defensive coaching staff, which has been in charge of a once-stellar unit that has blown so many close games this year. Even the players have complained about the play-calling, especially in the last-minute loss at Dallas, where the Cowboys marched 90 yards in just over two minutes for the winning score.

However, if the Wilfs decide to keep Frazier but insist on defensive changes, tell me: How many good assistant coaches will take a job here working for a head coach who has a one-year contract?

No doubt people in the Vikings front office believe the Vikings personnel is better than the team’s record shows. Look at a player such as Audie Cole, a 2012 seventh-round pick who warmed the bench all year, was released for one week in November, then brought back and put into the lineup, where he turned out to be a pretty good starting linebacker.

Then you have the case of some half-dozen substitutes playing well enough to dominate NFC East-leading Philadelphia last week.

The Wilfs have other problems if they want to hire a new coach. They would have to assure him that the key players among the 13 free agents are signed for 2014, to give the team a good nucleus.

This team will have a hard time replacing Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, Kevin Williams, Toby Gerhart and other pending free agents if they aren’t re-signed. On top of that is the fact that quarterback Matt Cassel needs to be re-signed, even though I’m in the minority that believes Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Frazier still believe that Christian Ponder will go to training camp next summer with a chance to be the No. 1 quarterback.

My sources are as good as any, and believe me, contrary to what has been written and broadcast and seen on the Internet, it’s not true that they have given up on Ponder.

Despite the fact that the Vikings have had two good drafts in a row — from this year’s draft class, first-round picks Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes have really come on strong this year, and there are some other players who will surface as quality players in the future — there remain a lot of holes on this team if it wants to be a Super Bowl contender.

Without a doubt, letting cornerback Antoine Winfield go this past offseason was a mistake for the Vikings, as he was really missed. They might have won some of those close games had he been in uniform — even though the word around Winter Park was that he no longer could be effective. The Vikings can’t make the same mistakes in regards to next year’s roster.

All of these contract and personnel issues will make it a very interesting offseason for the Vikings as they prepare for their first year at TCF Bank Stadium.

Firing Frazier won’t solve their problems. However, it’s clear something has to be done on defense, because you can’t lose that many games in the final seconds.

Teague starts fundraising

Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague brought Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany to town Monday night. Delany met with one potential group of contributors to the Gophers program for dinner on Monday, then met with another group for breakfast the next day. Delany sold some boosters on writing checks to make improvements to campus athletic facilities.

“Oh yeah, we’ve definitely raised some money,” said Teague, trying to raise $190 million for facilities upgrades. “We’re in, as they say, the silent phase right now. We plan to kick things off after the first of the year in January or February in an official way. The response has been good and I’m really happy about where we are and where we’re going.”

And what does Teague think about the Gophers’ appearance against Syracuse in the Texas Bowl this year?

“One of the things about that game which is great is it’s owned by ESPN, so you get some benefits there, especially for the fact that it has a very good time slot and it’s on ESPN, not ESPN2 or ESPNU. It’s on the mother ship, as they call it,” Teague said.

Sid's Jottings

• Two years ago, the Vikings ranked 23rd in the NFL in fewest penalties committed, but the next year they were fifth, and going into Sunday they are tied for third. One of the reasons for the improvement is the fact that several local college officials work with the team in practice, including Big Ten official Rick Kruger, Kelly McCrary and Chris Rossini from the MIAC and Bob Norman from the NSIC. In addition, two-time Super Bowl referee Bernie Kukar works in the press box and advises coach Leslie Fraizer on whether to challenge a call.

• One thing the Syracuse football team has going for it against the Gophers in the Texas Bowl next week is the return of wide receiver Jarrod West, who has missed a month because of what’s only been called a “significant” injury by the Orange. West has 21 receptions for 359 yards and a touchdown this season. Also, Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald should be familiar to Gophers fans. He was wide receivers coach here under Tim Brewster in 2007.

• Speaking of NFL free agency, the Chicago Tribune reported this week that it looks more likely that the Bears will either have to sign Jay Cutler to a long-term contract extension or let him enter free agency. The $16 million salary cap hit the team would take if it franchise-tagged him would be too steep, according to the Tribune.

• The Bengals may be chasing an AFC North title, but they are certainly coming off their worst loss of the season in a 30-20 defeat to the Steelers. The Cincinnati Inquirer gave the coaching staff a grade of F in the loss, writing, “Every time it looks like they are on the verge of silencing a large portion of national doubters, there is a game like this.”
• GopherIllustrated.com reported that Steven Richardson, a defensive tackle from Mount Carmel, Ill., recently completed his official visit with the Gophers. Richardson verbally committed to coach Jerry Kill and his staff before his senior season and then proceeded to produce 17 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. The Gophers also recently got a signed letter of intent from Cody Poock, a freshman linebacker at Iowa Western Community College, where he led the team with 73 tackles.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
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Fresno State
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Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
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(25) Boise State
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Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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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 NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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