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Updated: February 27th, 2011 11:07pm
Pelissero: Vikings' personnel culture changing already under Frazier

Pelissero: Vikings' personnel culture changing already under Frazier

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by Tom Pelissero

INDIANAPOLIS -- Leslie Frazier knows it's going to happen. He knows that, sooner or later, he's going to have it out with Rick Spielman about something.

But after four-plus years with powerful and volatile Brad Childress, the Minnesota Vikings already have seen Frazier's approach and even-keeled nature change the dynamic in the building and the personnel operation.

In the long run, the Vikings hope for synergy. For now, they'll settle for civility.

"I'm sure there are going to be times where he may see it one way (and) I may see it another," Frazier said last week of Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel.

"That happens. That's not a bad thing. You don't want to be around all people that say, 'Yes, Leslie, you're right, yes, Leslie.' That's not a good thing. But I feel good about the fact that Rick is a standup guy, good person, and when you have that, you can work through whatever issues there are.

"It's when a person is not a good person and there's never a situation where they'll say, 'You know what? You're right this time.' That's a problem."

Talk to enough people in the Vikings organization -- even those who like Childress personally -- and the stories add up.

He'd snap. He'd lose control of his emotions. He'd go from zero to 60 about anything from traffic to the quality of practice tape to quotes published in innocuous news stories.

The result upstairs at Winter Park was an environment in which people didn't want to hear each other out at times. And it was a two-way street -- this is my guy, that's your guy and that's the way it's going to be.

One factor was Childress' contractually guaranteed control over the 53-man roster, which Frazier didn't receive when he was promoted from interim coach on Jan. 3. But ownership's commitment to an oligarchy with Frazier, Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski on equal footing indicated Zygi and Mark Wilf felt personality was a central issue.

"I know you know the Wilfs, and everybody is not real big on structure at our place," Spielman said. "I'm doing the personnel side of it. Leslie is coaching. We work together."

Frazier and Spielman both have avoided making direct comparisons of their relationship to what existed Childress era. There have been subtle hints, however, that Frazier is comfortable with Spielman taking on a higher profile.

For one, Spielman held a media conference at last week's NFL scouting combine for the first time. And those with knowledge of the past month's meetings on the roster, free agency and the NFL Draft say the dialogue in the room simply was more open.

"That kind of communication gives you the chance to be successful to the point that you trust a Rick Spielman, because he's educated on what our staff wants on Sundays," Frazier said. "I have no problem if Rick says, 'Hey, this guy is an A-plus player, versus this guy is a C player.' He's done the background check. He's done the homework. So, I have confidence that he'll have a good recommendation."

There's no telling whether the Vikings' adjusted leadership will succeed. For all of his faults, Childress was 37-30 with two NFC North Division titles and a conference title-game appearance from 2006 to '09. And Frazier didn't exactly step in to save the day when 2010 was circling the drain.

One problem with oligarchies is it's tough to pinpoint accountability if things go wrong. Childress paid a price for his decision to cut Randy Moss without consulting the Wilfs, even though the real mistake -- trading a third-round draft pick for the volatile receiver -- wasn't his idea in the first place.

The hope this time is that Frazier, Spielman and everyone else with a hand in the football operation will have enough mutual trust and patience to reach unified conclusions more often than not. Even if it's unrealistic to think there won't be a time that somebody has to give in.

Crazy as an idea might sound, maybe it's worth one more look at the film ...

"When it comes time to make a decision on the 53, there shouldn't be a lot of consternation, because we've continuously been talking about our roster and where guys fit or don't fit," Frazier said.

"It's a little bit different when the communication is not what it should be and all of the sudden one guy wants this and one guy sees it this way and the other guy doesn't, then that's when you have the clashes. But if you're communicating all along, there shouldn't be any surprises from either party."

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