Notebook: Leslie Frazier says Vikings have 'no regrets' on game plan
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' most productive series in the first three quarters of Saturday's playoff loss at Green Bay was their first, which included three read-option plays to exploit backup quarterback Joe Webb's athletic talents.
But coach Leslie Frazier expressed no regrets during his postseason media conference on Tuesday about a game plan that otherwise asked Webb to run an offense that strongly resembled the scheme they usually run with injured starter Christian Ponder.
"Not at all," Frazier said. "We really put together a game plan that we felt like played to (Webb's) strengths. We did some things with bootlegs. We did some things with play action, which he's very good at. We ran some option football, some zone-read and we also had some dropback in there.
"We had a mix that we felt very comfortable with and we had executed very well in practice. And when he had his opportunities during the course of the year, he had executed well also. So, no. No regrets about the game plan or the approach that we took."
The results were regrettable, though. After Blair Walsh's 33-yard field goal capped that opening possession for a 3-0 lead, the Packers scored 24 consecutive points to put the game all but out of reach by early in the third quarter.
Webb was 7-of-24 passing for 61 yards until the last two series, when the Packers went to a soft zone coverage and inexplicably left Michael Jenkins wide open for a 50-yard touchdown. The Vikings only ran three more read-option plays after that first possession.
"Their defense didn't really change," Frazier said. "The things that we saw on tape were there for Joe, just like they were for Christian. And he's shown that he can function in our offense. ... We had some things in that we felt really good about for him."
Webb took most of the snaps in practice during the week and did all the throwing because Ponder was dealing with a triceps injury that limited him to handoffs. Frazier informed Webb just hours before kickoff at Lambeau Field that he'd get the nod.
Asked if Webb had hit the throws in practice he missed in the game, Frazier said, "Oh yeah, otherwise we wouldn't keep him in the game plan. There were things that we did and did well.
"We had confidence going into the game, but you have to understand what you just said. The fact that his opportunities are limited when you are the backup quarterback, you're limited. It was a tall task for him. He fought, tried to give us a chance to win. We just weren't able to get over the hump."
There was no formal announcement before Saturday's game about Ponder's status to players. No one even talked to McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who said he learned he'd dress as Webb's backup "(w)hen my jersey was hanging in my locker.
"That's kind of the way it goes," said Bethel-Thompson, who had been inactive for all 16 regular-season games. "And obviously, you prepare each week as if you're going to be the key. You never know. There's only three of us."
Frazier pulled aside Webb and Bethel-Thompson after Thursday's practice to speak about the situation. The decision wasn't final until Ponder's pregame throwing session failed, though.
"They don't keep us in the dark in anything that's going on," Bethel-Thompson said. "But no one knew. No one knew the situation.
"I knew when I showed up at the stadium, and it was an exciting time. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way we wanted to. But I was happy to be able to suit and provide what I could provide."
Keep the veterans?
The Vikings are going through personnel meetings this week, discussing every player on the roster before they move on to free agents and then the draft class.
Among the decisions they must make is the possibility of renegotiating with defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield -- two declining veterans whose 2013 salaries and cap numbers are among the team's highest.
Williams, 32, is due $7.5 million in salary and bonuses. Winfield, 35, is due $7.25 million. Frazier said he'll stump to keep both around, one way or another.
"That's something that we're going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with Rick (Spielman, the Vikings' general manager) and the personnel department, and just talk about their fit going forward," Frazier said.
"But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided for us this season, what they've meant to me in my time here in Minnesota and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They're great, great players and great people as well."