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Updated: December 31st, 2013 4:35pm
P.J.R.: Most of truth bending on QB chaos points to Spielman

P.J.R.: Most of truth bending on QB chaos points to Spielman

by Patrick Reusse
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Leslie Frazier attempted to do some lobbying to save his job after the Vikings defeated Philadelphia 48-30 on Dec. 15 in the Metrodome. Postgame and again on Monday, the Vikings head coach gave much praise to the preparation of his staff, as well as the effort from the athletes.

On that Wednesday, Frazier was interviewed on SiriusXM radio and talked of the benefits that can come to an NFL organization when the owners show patience. The example cited was the Pittsburgh Steelers, with three head coaches since 1969 and Super Bowl titles for all - four for Chuck Noll, and one apiece for Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.

The Vikings went to Cincinnati on the following Sunday and lost to 42-14. Frazier knew there was no sense in citing the virtue of the Bengals' patience with coach Marvin Lewis, not after a four-touchdown beating in which his team went belly-up in the effort department for the first time all season.

Frazier knew he was gone after that one ... knew that General Manager Rick Spielman was going to get permission from Zygi and Mark Wilf to fire him.

That's the reason Frazier was willing to be so candid on the Vikings' season-long quarterback chaos in his press conference after the Dome-ending, 14-13 victory over Detroit on Sunday.

Frazier reneged on all those midseason quotes in which he claimed to be starting Christian Ponder because he was the quarterback who gave his team "the best chance to win.''

In Sunday's postgame interview, Frazier said that every quarterback change - from Ponder to Matt Cassel to Josh Freeman to Ponder to Cassel - was a "collective decision'' among himself, Spielman and owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.

"When you're talking about the quarterback position, you don't make these decisions alone,'' Frazier said. "The quarterback, this is a franchise decision ... a collective decision.

" I'm the head coach, but when it comes to the quarter back, it's not like inserting an offensive guard or a wide receiver or tight end. That's a completely different matter, so believe me there were discussions in each one of those situations.

"... We've talked about why we did what we did, and if it worked out there would be no second-guessing.''

Frazier did not specify as to where the second-guessing came from. You could infer that he was talking about the barbs that he took from the media and the fans for going back to Ponder for six starts.

Just as easily, you could infer that the second-guessing was Spielman using quarterback indecision as one of the reasons to fire him.

The punch line for Frazier on Sunday was this:

"You don't want to make decisions regarding the quarterback without ownership and the general manager being involved in some degree. You can make suggestions, but they need to sign off on it.''

Frazier was informed officially that he was gone before sunrise on Monday. And the most intense Spielman came off in his afternoon press conference was refuting Frazier's implication that the GM had played a strong hand in the decisions on who would start at quarterback:

"I'll address the quarterback situation ... I talked to you guys midseason about I'm responsible for putting the best 53 players I can possibly put on our roster, but I have to leave it up to the coaches to make those decisions on who gives them the best chance to win on Sundays.

"Now we had a lot of consulting, we talked through a lot of the situations, but ultimately that decision has to be on the coaches ... I don't believe that you dictate to a coach who needs and who doesn't need to play.''

Here's what I don't believe:

I don't believe that Leslie Frazier meant it when he said for six weeks in midseason that Ponder gave his team the best chance to win.

Here's what I do believe:

Frazier was taking it on the chin and trying to keep his locker room together when he stood up for Ponder. And he was doing so after Spielman - with the backing of the Wilfs - insisted that the proper thing for the organization was to see more of Ponder, the GM's 12th overall choice from 2011, as the starter.

I also believe that considerable bending of the truth took place in Frazier's and Spielman's comments this week on how the Vikings' quarterback chaos came about, and that a very low percentage of the bending came from Frazier.


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.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse