MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — The Minnesota Vikings announced that Leslie Frazier will not return as head coach for the much-beleaguered football team next season.
The announcement came via Twitter Monday morning, following the team’s season-ending win against the Detroit Lions.
At a press conference at Winter Park Monday, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the decision to fire Frazier wasn’t made until Monday morning. He said it was a very difficult decision but they felt they had to look at the whole body of Frazier’s work, “not just this or that.”
“As we sat there and evaluated, we felt change was needed to take a step forward,” Spielman said.
Spielman also reiterated that he was not the general manager in 2010 when Frazier was hired.
Going forward, he said he feels there’s a good football team here — it just needs some work.
“I feel very optimistic about this young talent we have on this football team,” he said. “Are there holes that need to be filled? Definitely.”
Several questions were brought up about the quarterback situation, which Spielman said, if he’s being honest, sticking with Christian Ponder was Frazier’s call.
As far as looking for a new head coach, Spielman said he, along with the Wilfs, will begin that process.
“We don’t have a guy, I think there’s a lot of potential candidates out there,” he said. “I think there are enough potential candidates out there that we’ll be able to get our guy.”
As far as team strategies and the current quarterback situation, Spielman said his first priority is getting a new coach in place — after that, the new coach and coaching staff will be part of those decisions.
Frazier just finished his fourth year as head coach for the team. He was at 20-33-1, leading the Vikings to the playoffs just once. Many say Frazier hadn’t been able to develop a reliable quarterback for the team, with the role being passed around from Ponder to Matt Cassel and even Josh Freeman.
“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings. He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “Making this change is difficult, but what we determined is best for the organization.”
Frazier said on Sunday he was hoping for another chance, despite the struggles.
“Unfortunately, we did not achieve consistent success and did not achieve the progress we expected,” Spielman added. “We believe a coaching change is needed to help build a successful team moving forward.”
The 54-year-old Frazier had one season remaining on his contract.
Quarterback Christian Ponder sputtered and produced three straight turnover-plagued performances to start the season. The Vikings lost all three, on last-minute touchdowns to Chicago and Cleveland.
They lost two other games and tied one in similar fashion, squandering leads inside the 52-second mark in all five of those. Though veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield was cut before the season to save space under the salary cap, the defense that has been Frazier’s expertise faltered badly. Drafting Ponder 12th overall in 2011 was the primary responsibility of general manager Rick Spielman, but the shaky quarterback situation was far from the only problem for this team.
Hired by Brad Childress to be the defensive coordinator in 2007, Frazier interviewed for seven head coach openings over a three-year span: Atlanta and Miami in 2008, Denver, Detroit and St. Louis in 2009, and Buffalo and Seattle in 2010.
Finally, his opportunity came with the Vikings when Childress was fired in the middle of a messy 2010 season.
Credited with keeping the team on an even keel while attention swirled around Brett Favre and the Metrodome roof collapsed the night before a scheduled game, Frazier went 3-3 as the interim, including an improbable win at playoff-bound Philadelphia after the NFL postponed that contest by two days because of a forecast snowstorm.
Frazier got the job for good in 2011, but after a lockout-shortened offseason, the Vikings went 3-13 behind an ineffective Donovan McNabb and then rookie Ponder at quarterback. In 2012, they staged a remarkable turnaround, riding Adrian Peterson to a spot in the playoffs.
Childress had his contract extended in 2009 while the Vikings were on their way to the NFC championship game, but the team came unglued the following fall. Wary of a similarly expensive over-commitment, Wilf and the front office merely picked up a fourth-year option on Frazier’s deal last January, putting him in a prove-it situation for 2013.
Right away, his future here turned grim.
And as widely liked as Frazier has been throughout the organization, the ultra-competitive landscape of the NFL rarely allows coaches with two double-digit-defeat records in three years to keep their jobs.
His playing career as a cornerback for Chicago cut short by a knee injury in the Super Bowl, Frazier soon ventured into coaching, building the program at Trinity College from scratch in 1988.
Fifteen years later, he became the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati. With two years as an assistant in Indianapolis, Frazier came from the Tony Dungy mold of coaches, a soft-spoken man of deep Christian faith who has excelled at creating a culture of harmony and respect around the locker room.
After the Vikings beat Detroit on Sunday to wrap up the season, Frazier stumped to stay. He said he was proud of the job he has done here.
“I just have a lot of belief in my abilities as a coach and have a lot of belief in the guys on our team, a lot of belief in our staff, and for that reason you don’t have to walk in fear,” Frazier said at the Metrodome. “You just know that things are going to work out.”
Vikings Press Conference (Part 1)
Vikings Press Conference (Part 2)
Vikings Press Conference (Part 3)
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