LIVE › 4-5 a.m. SportsCenter AM
NEXT › 5 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter
5:05 a.m. Mike and Mike
6 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter
6:40 a.m. Twin Cities Sports Update - with Dave Harrigan and Kenny Olson
6:55 a.m. Twin Cities Sports Update - with Dave Harrigan and Kenny Olson
7 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter
Updated: November 27th, 2011 11:07pm
Pelissero: Misguided desperation not helping Leslie Frazier or Vikings

Pelissero: Misguided desperation not helping Leslie Frazier or Vikings

SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports

Signup!
by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Leslie Frazier is getting desperate when he should be getting pragmatic.

That could be a statement about the failed fourth-and-goal in Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, but it goes so far beyond that.

At 2-9, the Vikings should be playing for the future. But like that head-scratching handoff to Toby Gerhart, Frazier is selling out to salvage something from the now.

That's why Benny Sapp continued to play out of position and out of shape on Sunday when rookie Brandon Burton could have taken over for injured Asher Allen.

That's why Tyrell Johnson got another start in place of Husain Abdullah until an injury finally got rookie Mistral Raymond on the field.

That's why Jared Allen continues to play most every snap when common sense says it's worth lightening the load to protect an expensive investment.

That's why Frazier quietly relieved defensive coordinator Fred Pagac of some duties in last week's loss to Oakland and was sending in at least a chunk of the play calls again on Sunday.

There are dead men walking at Winter Park, and deep down, Frazier must know it. A defensive coaching staff largely assembled by predecessor Brad Childress probably has as much time left with the Vikings as Donovan McNabb.

Yet Burton and Raymond remain largely strapped to the sideline, along with several other young players the Vikings should be turning loose while Sapp wheezes and Johnson gimps and Allen sticks out his All-Pro neck as an emergency long snapper.

"What am I going to do, pout?" Allen said. "I'm on a football team. I could be unemployed. At 2-9, we might be unemployed soon, right? They may fire somebody."

Allen said it with a smile on his face, but he might have been only half-kidding. Somebody will have to take the fall for what could end up the worst season in Vikings history, even if plenty of people within the organization saw it coming.

The general feeling continues to be that Frazier is safe. The Wilfs, who have been monitoring the situation with increasing concern, have high regard for Frazier's character and no interest in paying two men not to coach.

Still, it has to be concerning when some of the same tendencies that contributed to the roster's current state are being repeated behind closed doors.

The problem with giving coaches an equal voice in personnel matters is they tend to prefer players with whom they're comfortable and sometimes overlook decline. Childress always wanted to plug a hole with a veteran, often at the expense of draft picks or a younger player whose development would benefit from the extra reps.

So, what was Frazier's first move? He won a contentious debate and traded a draft pick for McNabb, whose lost season in Washington had made clear the 34-year-old was a shell of the player who went to six Pro Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles.

That's one less pick the Vikings will have in April's draft at a time they need a lot of them. And that's been far from the only polar disagreement over the roster in an organization that is supposed to be governed by consensus.

Frazier pushed for the Vikings to sign Sapp from the day the Miami Dolphins released him in September. He finally got his way on Nov. 16, when the Vikings were coming off a 45-7 shellacking at Green Bay and the last thing that was going to solve their problems was a 30-year-old subpackage scrapper who'd spent two months on the couch.

Burton still hasn't played a single snap on defense. Raymond made his debut two weeks ago and remains a bit player. D'Aundre Reed and DeMarcus Love can't even get on the 46-man roster despite encouraging returns in practice.

Why are Allen and Brian Robison still playing 70 snaps a game when Everson Griffen has flashed undeniable pass-rush ability, as he did again in torching Falcons guard Joe Hawley for a sack on Sunday?

Why does it take an injury to Adrian Peterson to find carries for Toby Gerhart, if for no reason other than to preserve their $100 million halfback?

Asked on Sunday if the time has come to focus on finding out what young players can do, Frazier said, "We'll talk about it. We'll get back on Monday and just analyze what we need to do going forward in these remaining five games."

There shouldn't be debate on that topic. But there will be, because the only singular force that continues to govern the Vikings' direction is chaos.

Consensus can work when everybody's all in. When an NFL team needs to rebuild, someone needs to dictate the vision and reject quick fixes.

Maybe Rick Spielman would fail miserably if given that authority. But at least there would be someone to hold accountable for the totality of train wrecks such as this one, rather than a labyrinth of disconnected arguments whose winners sweep away the ones that work out unfavorably.

The Vikings believe they have their quarterback for the next decade in Christian Ponder and the man to develop him in Bill Musgrave, whose teaching ability supersedes a surmountable propensity to outsmart himself in crucial situations.

They have Peterson, Harvin, Allen, Chad Greenway and a handful of others as the nucleus in a rebuilding project that could yield one of the NFL's youngest teams in 2012.

They also have a coach who looked at the roster in July, decided this Vikings team could compete immediately and still is trying to save a season that was lost before it began.

If only someone had the authority to tell Frazier that taking back his defense is a step in the direction he needs to go: focus on what he knows best and otherwise get out of the way.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
3554