Vikings fire head coach Leslie Frazier, start to clean house

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 1:45 PM

The Minnesota Vikings have a number of issues, including a shaky quarterback situation and key holes to fill on defense.

So the team took the first step toward an offseason makeover Monday when head coach Leslie Frazier was fired. General Manager Rick Spielman cited a lack of consistency as a key reason for the move, which came a day after the Vikings concluded a 5-10-1 season.

Spielman promised an “extensive” coaching search that he hopes to complete by late January.

Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf informed Frazier of his dismissal during an early morning meeting.

Frazier shared the news with his team shortly thereafter. One player described the mood in the room as “somber.” Safety Jamarca Sanford cried as Frazier spoke and choked back tears later as he talked to reporters in the locker room. Players gave Frazier an ovation after he finished his speech.

“He was very genuine with us,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I will always love him.”

At an afternoon news conference, Zygi Wilf read a prepared statement that detailed “an emotional day and an extremely difficult decision.” Spielman said he and ownership evaluated Frazier’s “body of work” before the Wilfs determined that change was needed.

When reached by text message, Frazier declined to comment.

Frazier is the third coach the Wilfs have fired since taking ownership in 2005, joining Mike Tice and Brad Childress. Frazier, who had a year left on his contract, posted a 21-33-1 record after replacing Childress with six games left in the 2010 season.

The Vikings finished 3-13 in 2011 but made the playoffs at 10-6 last season. But rather than extend Frazier’s contract, the team picked up his option for the 2014 season, making this a make-or-break year. The Vikings started 1-7 and were plagued by quarterback uncertainty and late-game collapses.

“It was the right thing to do to move forward,” Spielman said. “We have the utmost respect for Leslie and what he’s brought to this organization, but we have to look for consistency year-in and year-out.”

Spielman said he created a list of 13 categories in classifying potential candidates in terms of their background and experience.

“We’re going to look at candidates with head coaching experience at either level [pro and college],” he said. “We’re going to look at coaches without head coaching experience that have done great jobs as coordinators that may be potential up-and-comers. We’re not going to be boxed into a specific ‘he-has-to-be-this.’ It’s got to be the guy that we think is the right fit.”

Coach and friend

Frazier’s ouster hardly came as a surprise to his players. His job status had been a source of speculation for weeks, to the point that he called it an “elephant in the room” last week.

“No one is dumb; you can see the writing on the wall,” Allen said. “When we go from the playoffs to our record, I don’t know if anybody knew it was going to happen, but sometimes you expect changes.”

Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson voiced his support for Frazier publicly multiple times recently and indicated he intended to share his feelings with the Wilfs. Peterson declined to comment as he walked through the locker room after Frazier’s firing.

Numerous players praised Frazier’s character and impact on their personal lives.

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