Leslie Frazier spent three-plus seasons as Vikings head coach, including three full seasons from 2011 to ’13, and amassed a 21-32-1 record. He took the team to the playoffs in 2012, their first trip since the 2009 NFC Championship Game, after a 10-6 season that featured the second-greatest rushing performance in NFL history by Adrian Peterson.
Frazier’s teams often were beset by injuries, and while his firing was predictable given the expectations to win immediately in the NFL, it still wasn’t a fair shake for the coach who is now the defensive coordinator for Tampa Bay. Frazier suffered more bad breaks than any former Vikings coach.
Last weekend, Frazier was back facing his former squad in a preseason game, and he said that he has high expectations for a team that features a number of players he helped bring up in the league.
“A lot of familiar faces,” Frazier said. “I had a chance to talk to some of the guys, and you always want to see the guys you spent so much time with have success and just so proud of Chad [Greenway] and Everson [Griffen], Jarius [Wright], so many other guys, Cordarrelle [Patterson], just very proud of those guys and the way they’re working and the way they’re improving. Xavier Rhodes, so many of them, excited for them and just hope they’ll keep getting better and better throughout their careers.”
As a defensive specialist, Frazier said he saw a lot of talent Saturday night in the Vikings’ 26-16 victory.
“I think they have some young players that are really playing hard. They have a chance to have a good defense in 2015,” he said. “The way those guys were flying around. I think they have a real good chance of being really good.”
One player that Frazier was really happy to see perform well was Griffen, a defensive end whom Frazier helped select in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Griffen got his shot to start last season after the Vikings let Jared Allen leave via free agency, and Griffen responded with 55 tackles and a team-high 12 sacks. In the previous three seasons, when Griffen split time at defensive end, he recorded 17 ½ sacks total.
“So happy for him,” Frazier said. “He is a young guy with a ton of talent. He is getting his shot now. He’s a starter, and he has proven why he deserves to be a starter in the National Football League. He’s an excellent defensive end, great pass rush, very good against the run as well. I’m glad to see him doing so well.”
Peterson the best
Frazier was on the sidelines to see Peterson rack up 2,097 yards in 2012, falling only 9 yards short of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson. Frazier says that the Vikings offense this season will change dramatically with Peterson in the backfield again.
“You know he’s the best in the NFL, and arguably the best to ever carry the football,” Frazier said. “You have to think it’s going to be a shot in the arm. I know it was for us, whenever he got involved in our offense, and it won’t be any different with the current regime. Once he arrives, it just lifts everybody’s spirits and puts a lot of fear in defenses. It has to make your team better, no question about it.”
Frazier always has seen the positive in his profession, and when asked about the Vikings’ chances to make the playoffs this season, he pointed out that there isn’t a team in the NFL that doesn’t believe it can make the playoffs at this point.
“In the NFL there are definitely some bumps along the way that you have to overcome, but if they can avoid injury they have just as good of a shot as anyone in the NFL,” he said. “I think all 32 teams at this point believe they have a shot, and rightfully so.”
Frazier also was asked if he still has fond memories of his time in Minnesota, despite how it ended.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. I love the fans back there, you and I both witnessed what that Dome used to be like on some of those Sundays and the way our fan base would have that place rocking,” he said. “A lot of good memories, a lot of good memories from my time in Minnesota.”
Ponder a good fit
Former Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder will be in town with the Oakland Raiders for Saturday’s preseason game. Ponder completing six of eight passes for 59 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the Raiders’ 18-3 victory over St. Louis in their first preseason game.
Oakland coach Jack Del Rio talked to Raiders.com this week about what Ponder means to the team:
“He’s got a lot of starts in the league. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s got a knowledge having been with [offensive coordinator Bill] Musgrave before. He understands Bill’s system a little bit, some of the terminology. He brings experience and quarterback ability. He knows Bill real well. With that combination of things, he was attractive to us in terms of bringing him in as a free agent.”
• Beth Goetz, interim athletic director for the University of Minnesota, was asked if being an AD her career goal. “Well, it’s certainly something that you plan for every day, just like we tell our student-athletes you focus on the job that’s in front of you and prepare for the opportunities that could lead to. So certainly [it’s] something I’ve aspired to do,” she said.
Has Goetz been given any timetable on the search for the new AD?
“No real specifics at this point, but I know they’re committed to doing a full national search and finding a great candidate to lead the program going forward.” (University President Eric Kaler said Wednesday that a full-time hire might not be made until July 2016.)
• The Yankees team that won five of six from the Twins this season won without signing any big-money free agents before the season, and according to Hal Steinbrenner, CEO of the team, they will continue this policy and not give up any of their top young prospects. One of those prospects they wouldn’t trade was Greg Bird, who hit two two-run homers on Wednesday, the first home runs of his career.
• EuroBasket 2015, the largest European basketball championship, will begin Sept. 5. Timberwolves free-agent signee Nemanja Bjelica will play for Serbia. … Meanwhile, Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio will not play for Spain because of offseason surgery and his desire to stay healthy, but he will be in the Philippines for an Adidas tour.
• NCAA heptathlon champion Luca Wieland of the Gophers was named scholar-athlete of the year for field events by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Nine other Gophers earned All-Academic honors. … Jade Ellis, a former track star at Totino-Grace and an ACC long jump champion at Duke, was hired as an assistant coach for the University of New Mexico track and field team.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com