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4:15 p.m. Chip Scoggins - Star Tribune Columnist
Updated: December 20th, 2013 4:46am
P.J.R.: Firing Frazier would put Wilfs among knee-jerk leaders

P.J.R.: Firing Frazier would put Wilfs among knee-jerk leaders

by Patrick Reusse
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Leslie Frazier was on Siriux XM radio with Rich Gannon and Bruce Murray on Wednesday. There are large questions concerning Frazier's job status and his comments in the interview included the following:

"So many people with opinions - whether it's talk radio, the internet, whatever, blogs - those different outlets, they seem to influence owners. I don't know; you just have to be careful.

"I know Coach [Tony] Dungy and I talk about this all the time, the patience that a franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers and a few others have shown over the years and the results that they've gotten from that ... where they haven't knee-jerk [reacted] after a tough season with their coaches.

"It's a good model, but it's not one that everybody adheres to.

"Things have changed. You're on a short leash now it seems in the National Football League. That's part of it when you sign that contract to become a head coach."

This followed his press conferences earlier in the week when he lauded the coaching staff for a great job done in the 48-30 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday in the Metrodome.

The interview on national radio and the postgame comments have been definite attempts by Frazier to get the Wilfs to step back and take a harder look at firing him - a harder look than the haste demonstrated by the New Jersey brothers in firing Mike Tice and Brad Childress.

The Wilfs took over as owners of the Vikings on May 25, 2005. They inherited Red McCombs' football operation for the 2005 season, including Tice for his fourth year as coach.

The Vikings had a horrendous start to the season, lost struggling quarterback Daunte Culpepper to injury, turned to Brad Johnson and rallied to finish 9-7. Tice was fired 20 minutes after the season-closing victory over Chicago.

The narrative has been that Tice's fate was sealed by the twin embarrassments of previous scalping of Super Bowl tickets and the Love Boat brouhaha. It has been my contention that the Wilfs, Zygi and his kid brother Mark, were giddy over the opportunity to play owners and could not wait to fire a coach ... even one who had been adequate for the task.

The Wilfs lack of patience burst forth again in 2010, when Brad Childress was fired 10 games into the season - and 10 months after coaching his team to the NFC title game in New Orleans.

More than anything, Childress took the fall for the failed experiment of bringing back Randy Moss. The truths were that the Wilfs were greatly enthused for the return of Moss, and Childress did the franchise a favor in quickly firing him when Moss proved to be an unproductive pain in the ass.

Frazier was named as the interim coach, went 3-3 and was given a four-year contract as head coach on Jan. 3, 2011.

He coached a team with one over-the-hill quarterback (Donovan McNabb) and one overmatched quarterback (rookie Christian Ponder), and holes everywhere on the roster, and went 3-13 in 2011. There was a quick patchwork of the roster and a favorable schedule in 2012, and even with often-unproductive play from Ponder, Frazier took the Vikings to the playoffs at 10-6.

This season, Ponder's play regressed from the stretch drive of 2012, the Vikings' defense had huge gaps in the secondary, and last-minute losses became the norm. This is more on Rick Spielman, the general manager who reached to draft Ponder at No. 12, than on the coaches.

It's not the fault of Frazier or offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave that they were given and instructed to play a quarterback who doesn't have the goods.

The Vikings are 4-9-1 with two games left - and Frazier's comments this week let us know that he anticipates being fired by Zyfgi and Mark Wilf.

We don't know if Les Frazier could have long-term success as an NFL coach. At this moment, there is as much evidence in his favor as against him. Throw out the first season when he had a team with no chance, and he's had one season with enough surprising success to be among four coaches getting votes for NFL Coach of the Year, and this season, when they went backwards due to quarterback chaos and poor decisions by Spielman in providing options on defense.

The fact the Vikings are competing strongly in the late stages of a season where the playoffs were out of the picture early-on ... that should be considered a positive for Frazier and most of his coaching staff.

If Frazier goes and a replacement arrives in January, that would be four head coaches in 8 years, 8 months as owners ... giving the Wilfs a place among the NFL's leaders in knee-jerk reaction.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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