EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Stressing a team-first mentality, Leslie Frazier took over as Minnesota’s head coach and vowed a thorough examination of the roster, the staff and the scheme on both sides of the ball to get the Vikings back in the playoffs.
On the day he reached a contract agreement with the organization to remove the interim tag from his title, Frazier said he believes “it’s only a matter of time” before the championship-deprived franchise wins a Super Bowl.
Frazier took over on Nov. 22 when Brad Childress was fired, and the Vikings went 3-3 under the 51-year-old after a 3-7 start.
“I think we’ll be able to look back at these last six weeks and say, ‘You know what? That was the beginning of something special,” Frazier said Monday during his introductory news conference at Winter Park.
One of the first orders of business for Frazier is to help devise a plan with the personnel department for the sport’s most important position. Quarterback Brett Favre is finally retiring, and Frazier said he wouldn’t call the 41-year-old to ask for another season under “any circumstance.”
The defensive coordinator under Childress and a former cornerback for the Bears, Frazier drew positive reviews from the players for his steady approach. They’ve pushed for him to get the job on a permanent basis, after many of them grew frustrated with Childress and his rigid style.
Frazier is the eighth coach in the franchise’s 50-year history.
“Our players and entire organization have great respect for Leslie,” owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement released by the team. “He has a vast knowledge of the game, both as a former player and as a coach, and he has a terrific way with those who play for him and work with him.”
Already mired in a mess of a season that started with a Super Bowl-or-bust goal, the Vikings lost Favre to a shoulder injury on Dec. 5. Then the roof of their domed stadium collapsed a week later; they had back-to-back home games moved; and their scheduled Dec. 26 game at Philadelphia was pushed back two days by a snowstorm.
“He’s a great leader. He’s a players’ coach, and he’s somebody people would like playing for,” wide receiver Percy Harvin said before the news became official.
Childress hired Frazier to run the defense in 2007 after Mike Tomlin left to become Pittsburgh’s coach and later appointed him assistant head coach. Frazier has interviewed for seven coaching vacancies over the past three years.
“I like, obviously, playing for him,” said linebacker Chad Greenway, one of several key players whose contracts are expiring. “I’ve played for him every year I’ve been the starter here. If he’s going to be here, that’s obviously a good thing on the comfort level.”
Frazier addressed the players in a season-ending meeting Monday morning.
“He’s always seemed like a head coach ever since he took over that role,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “He knows how to talk to you, and he respects you.”
Frazier has been coaching in the NFL since 1999. He’s been an assistant with Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The native of Columbus, Miss., played at Alcorn State and broke in with the Bears in 1981.
WCCO’s Sid Hartman Interviews Leslie Frazier
“I think he’s proven it in a number of ways, a number of areas, and seeing the way the guys respond to him in the locker room I think it’s a good fit,” linebacker Ben Leber said.
Frazier said he “could not have asked for a better opportunity” in the NFL.
“He played in the league, first of all,” running back Adrian Peterson said after Sunday’s season-ending loss at Detroit. “He has all of the respect from each and every man in this locker room. So when he talks, the ears will listen to what he has to say.”
WCCO-TV’s Mark Rosen Reports
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