Leslie Frazier will be more involved in Vikings 'D', try to set tone
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Leslie Frazier wants to go back to his roots in his second season as Minnesota Vikings coach, if not quite all the way.
Hours after the Vikings finalized a deal for Alan Williams to become their new defensive coordinator, Frazier said in a conference call he wants to shift his focus more heavily to that side of the ball and leave no doubt about how he expects the system to operate.
"I really want to have a hand in what we're doing early on to assist him in what we're trying to get done and where I want our defense to go," Frazier said of Williams, who coached the Indianapolis Colts' defensive backs the past 10 years.
"The fact that we have a prior relationship made a difference in his deciding that he wanted to accept that role."
Williams, 42, worked closely with Frazier for two years (2005 and '06) in Indianapolis. Both espouse then-Colts coach Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 zone scheme, which Frazier brought to Minnesota as defensive coordinator in 2007.
"We're very familiar with one another's philosophy in terms of defense, our terminology," Williams said. "The way we coach is very similar. I only can see that as a positive, that Les will be hands on with the defense. He brings a wealth of experience, a wealth of knowledge and he's very easy to work with."
Frazier declined to get into specifics but acknowledged his plans to take a more hands-on approach is a response to what unfolded last season under Fred Pagac, who was stripped of coordinator duties after the season and accepted a demotion to linebackers coach.
A group of defensive backs expressed concerns just weeks into the season about the timing and frequency of certain calls. Pagac preferred to play a Man/Cover-1 attack and faced resistance from Frazier, who took away play-calling duties for a stretch in November. The Vikings finished 21st in total defense and 26th against the pass.
"I don't want to take it over, now," said Frazier, who plans to scale back his involvement with the offense and special teams. "I don't think it would be serve me very well to (stretch) myself to the point where I can't oversee some of things I need to see on our team.
"We are an evolving football team. We've really got to do some serious things with our roster to get back in the mix in our division and our conference. So, I don't want to be immersed to the point where I'm defensive coordinator-slash-head coach. Some people can do that. I don't think I can. I don't want to go in that direction.
"But I did want to take the lead on some things early on and really set the tone for how I want things done and I think that's important after what we experienced this past season."
Frazier also made clear that while he considered a major schematic change for the defense, he evaluated the season and the Vikings' history on defense and "didn't want to get too far away from the things that have helped us to be successful."
Asked directly if Williams will make 100% of the play calls, Frazier said, "Early on, I really want to be involved in what we're doing, and as we get through OTAs and minicamps, we'll make a determination on what direction we want to go. But I have a good feel for initially how I want to do it.
"Having Alan here, plus having someone that I know who absolutely thinks the same way that I think and really has an idea what I'm looking for, so that can be a big plus."
A onetime standout offensive player at William & Mary, Williams got his first coaching job at his alma mater, where he worked until joining Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay in 2001. He followed Dungy to Indianapolis in 2002 and worked there until accepting the Vikings' offer on Thursday, two days after becoming at least the third outside candidate to interview.
Raheem Morris visited Vikings headquarters on Jan. 6 before the Washington Redskins hired him as defensive backs coach. Mel Tucker interviewed on Jan. 10 and reportedly received an offer -- Frazier said he decided to stay in Jacksonville in part to avoid uprooting his family.
"One of the things I was concerned with was once teams starting to name head coaches, the list of candidates would really shrink," Frazier said. "We're fortunate that Alan was available and that the coach (Jim Caldwell, who was fired the same day) would let us interview him."
Frazier acknowledged he spoke with former colleague Steve Spagnuolo after the season but said they never directly discussed a reunion.
The Vikings also are believed to have granted a courtesy interview to Mike Singletary, who will retain his special assistant title and apparently share duties coaching the linebackers with Pagac.
"For anyone who was not interested in winning, that may be a problem," Williams said. "But I assure you that 'Pug' wants to win. It's first, foremost, above egos."
Said Frazier, "Fred is an outstanding coach, an excellent linebackers coach and just feel that (because) he was willing to accept this role along with Mike Singletary -- two guys who I have a great deal of respect for as coaches in their respective roles and the fact that they're going to both be working with our linebackers -- I think we're going to have the best linebacking corps in the National Football League. "
Frazier strongly implied Williams was a candidate for other jobs as well, but Williams downplayed the remark, saying his "job was just to sit tight and see what was happening with Indianapolis and go from there."
Praising Williams as an "excellent teacher" with good communication skills and command of players, Frazier downplayed the protracted nature of the Vikings' 2½-week search and said he thinks "things really worked out the way they should have. Alan's going to be a great fit for what we're trying to get done going forward."
Williams will join the rest of the remodeled staff in Mobile, Ala., next week, when they'll coach one of the teams in the Senior Bowl -- a chance to get a head start on installing that philosophy and approach Frazier wants.
"I think we will pay attention to detail," Williams said. "I think we will again start from the ground up, like it was built a few years ago, and with that, I think you'll see some dramatic changes in how we play and also how fast that we play."
• Frazier wouldn't get into specifics about the decision to replace Karl Dunbar, who had been the Vikings' defensive line coach since 2006. "Karl did a great job for us for a number of years here, working with our defensive line and I wish him nothing but the best," Frazier said. "I have the utmost respect for Karl Dunbar."
• Frazier praised Dunbar's replacement, Brendan Daly, for his energy, enthusiasm, teaching skills and understanding of funadementals. "What he did in St. Louis with Chris Long and some of their young players really impressed me," Frazier said. "He did some good things there."
• Joe Woods will return as defensive backs coach, Frazier confirmed. Assistant defensive backs coach Matt Sheldon isn't under contract but the team is "trying to work through some things" with him as well. Jeff Imamura, who helped Singletary with the linebackers last season, will remain on staff in a role to be determined. Frazier didn't directly address the status of Dunbar's former assistant, Diron Reynolds, who was viewed as the favorite to replace Dunbar before Daly was hired.