Notebook: Leslie Frazier will hit the road as QB search intensifies
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' quest to find a quarterback will send their head coach on the road.
Leslie Frazier confirmed on Friday morning he plans to travel to a significant number of campus workouts this spring, continuing the process begun here at the NFL scouting combine of getting to know prospects who could become the face of the franchise.
"We can even set up private workouts, which we're going to do with some of them as well," Frazier said. "We'll have enough data and information between now and draft day to make a good decision, hopefully.
"You've seen a lot of teams that have been in these positions and come away two or three years after that draft and said, 'Man, we picked the wrong guy.' We don't want to be that team."
There is no shortage of cautionary tales for the Vikings, who own the No. 12 overall pick in April's draft and seven selections overall.
Since Frazier entered the NFL coaching ranks in 1999, quarterbacks have been taken with top-12 picks 22 times. Nine of those quarterbacks (40.9%) -- Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart -- can be called unqualified busts, while players such as Byron Leftwich at least have fallen short of expectations.
"When you look at the statistics -- even when teams have had the No. 1 pick overall and misses -- you're still go, 'Wow,'" Frazier said. "It gets your attention (and) really makes you want to cross all the T's and want to dot all the I's. You've got to do everything you can to get this right, but it's not an exact science and you just hope you get it right."
The Vikings met with several quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl and plan to speak with most, if not all of the junior quarterbacks here. Formal interviews began on Friday -- vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said on Thursday the Vikings plan to use their full allotment of 60 -- and quarterbacks go through drills on Sunday.
Asked if there's a quarterback he thinks is worthy of the No. 12 pick, Frazier said, "I don't know if I could say that today. There's still so much more information that we need to gather on these guys, this is a part of it. Watching them work out. I think someone told me that maybe 17 out of 17 guys that are here are going to work out or 15 out of the 17. So, that's a big step.
"We still need to get more beyond what we're going to find out this weekend. We've got to spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks to be able to determine, 'Does he have the ingredients we're looking for?' This (combine) is a part of the process, but it's not the end-all."
The Vikings' need at quarterback is obvious. They need upgrades and depth along the offensive line and in the secondary, too.
But Frazier made clear there's another priority, saying "we are going to try to upgrade our defensive line" through the draft or free agency.
"That's a scenario where we want to do some things that can really help our defensive line," Frazier said. "We're aging at one of the spots. We need to do some things to improve. One of the mantras has been being good against the run, stopping the run. We've kind of slipped a little bit, so we have to take a look at some things and see what we have to do to improve in that area."
The age remark referred to nose tackle Pat Williams, who is 38 and expected to depart in free agency. The top in-house option to replace him is Letroy Guion. The Vikings also have veteran Jimmy Kennedy under contract for another season and could re-sign Fred Evans.
Frazier chose his words carefully about Williams, a fixture in the Vikings' front since signing with the team in 2005.
"Someday, Pat is going to retire and somebody's got to be able to step into that role," Frazier said. "He's been a great, great player for us for a number of years. But we need a young guy to step up and we've got to determine whether that's Letroy or whether that's Fred or whether we've got to draft someone."
Know your role
A smile crept across Frazier's face when asked what he said to Everson Griffen during the defensive end's "week from hell" this month.
"I had to just talk about a few things," Frazier said, "and just remind him what was important to us and as an organization and football team and got my fingers crossed and hopefully, won't see his name in the newspapers other than for what happens this fall when he gets a sack, an interception or a fumble recovery or something like that."
Griffen was arrested twice in three days this month, then planned a Las Vegas party trip before Frazier told him to cancel it. Spielman said the Vikings still have high expectations for Griffen, though, and his role could expand substantially if left end Ray Edwards departs in free agency as expected.
"You don't want to see that happen whether it's any of your players, whether it's because someone may be leaving because of retirement or not able to come back because of injury or whatever it is," Frazier said. "You don't want to see your players' names in the papers for negative situations. So, anytime it happens, it becomes a concern. Hopefully for us, that's something that's behind us. Hopefully."
• As a first-year head coach, Frazier is eligible to hold a second mandatory minicamp. And if the league isn't in a lockout, he plans to use it in April -- getting players together with new coaches and reevaluating the existing roster one more time before the draft. "You'd like to have them," Frazier said. "That's one of the plusses for a new head coach coming in. We'll see what happens, but we'd make it work." Frazier said he'd keep the rest of the schedule the same as it was under predecessor Brad Childress, with a rookie camp the weekend after the draft followed by four weeks of organized team activity practices and then the other mandatory minicamp in June.
• Frazier said the team is hopeful WR Percy Harvin's migraine issues will be "better than they have been" going forward. Harvin missed two games and more than 40 practices last season because of headaches. "It seems we have things in place to continuously help him," Frazier said. "He was able to finish the season strong after having some episodes. We'll just see as time goes on."
• New defensive coordinator Fred Pagac will make all the play calls, Frazier said. "I'm there to assist and support," Frazier said. "But I want to be a true head coach. I want to be able to assist Bill (Musgrave, the offensive coordinator), along with Mike Priefer, our special teams coordinator, and really manage our football team and not just be tied to one side of the ball or another. But I'll definitely have input on defense."