Notebook: Vikings owner backs Leslie Frazier, but expectations high
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PHOENIX -- Minnesota Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf expressed support for coach Leslie Frazier during a session with two Twin Cities reporters here at the NFL meetings on Monday afternoon.
But Wilf made clear expectations are high for 2013 after the Vikings' return to the playoffs last season ended with an ugly, 24-10 loss at Green Bay.
"It's not satisfying to walk out losing," Wilf said. "We want to go out as winners. That's our goal. ... That's going to start this coming year.
"It's our goal every season. But our goal, as always, is to win the division. That gives you the best opportunity to move forward. We know we're in a competitive division, and we've got to keep working to build something to get back to where we were a few years ago."
The Vikings surprised Frazier by exercising an option for 2014 in his contract after the season, rather than negotiating a multiyear contract extension.
Wilf danced around a question about the thought process that went into that decision.
"We believe Coach Frazier's done an outstanding job and we've decided to move forward with Coach Frazier and his entire staff," Wilf said. "We just feel we've got a good football operation in place and we're looking forward to great things to come."
Frazier does not have any further options in his contract, Wilf said, so the Vikings will face another decision on his future after this season to avoid a lame-duck situation in 2014. Another step forward after the improvement from 3-13 to 10-6 would seem to secure Frazier more time.
"As good a season as it was, it's not what we want," Wilf said. "We want a championship and we won't be fully satisfied until we get one. That's what we're shooting for."
Does that mean the Vikings must return to the playoffs or perhaps even win the division for Frazier to keep his job?
"Wins and losses is always the metric in the NFL," Wilf said. "But we believe in Coach Frazier and we approve of the job he's done and we look forward to good things to come."
Preparing for London
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski were part of a contingent that traveled to London this week on a scouting trip in advance of the Sept. 29 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That followed a trip for several of the team's other executives in the October to see last year's international game between New England and St. Louis.
"A lot of logistics involved," Wilf said. "We've already sent some of our staff in advance to London to meet with the league, selecting venues for our practice facilities and for our host hotel and things of that nature and we're going to be sending players and other people to London to kind of promote the game and get the excitement going."
The Vikings are designated as the home team for the game, so the team likely will travel on Tuesday, if not Monday, to promote the game and simulate a "normal" practice week. The final call on that schedule will belong to Frazier.
The team already has made one decision, requesting its bye fall the week after the London game, rather than the week before.
"We're doing a lot of the lifting in terms of the promotion of the game, and I think my understanding is the history of the home team has been supported by the fans there," Wilf said. "They do adopt the home team for the game and they're respectful of the home team. We hope that's the case again here."
• To no one's surprise, the Vikings did not receive any compensatory picks in next month's draft based on their cumulative free-agent gains and losses. They have 11 picks, including two (Nos. 23 and 25) in the first round. Since 1994, the Vikings have received 17 compensatory picks.
• Wilf said he believes Christian Ponder can be a championship-caliber quarterback. "Christian's our starting quarterback, made a lot of great strides," Wilf said. "Unfortunately, got banged up before the playoffs, but especially down the stretch there, he really showed the kind of quarterback he can be and I know our football folks are very excited about him and we are as well. We're going to try to make the entire team stronger so it lifts everyone up."