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Updated: December 29th, 2013 11:23pm
Zulgad: As Vikings owners, the Wilfs are culpable for this mess, too

Zulgad: As Vikings owners, the Wilfs are culpable for this mess, too

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Leslie Frazier likely will be fired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

Reports that Frazier would be gone after three-plus seasons began to surface a few weeks back and Fox's Jay Glazer added Sunday that the firing is a done deal.

That means the Vikings will be looking for their fourth coach since Zygi and Mark Wilf took over as owners in 2005.

It also means that even though the Wilfs have achieved their goal of getting a new stadium, they have failed as NFL owners to date.

Who says this is the case? The Wilfs do.

As someone who covered the Vikings for the Star Tribune from 2005 through 2010, there was a common theme provided by Zygi.

It went like this: Ownership wasn't in this for short-term success or up-and-down seasons, they were in the NFL to build a consistent franchise that wouldn't ride a yearly roller-coaster.

The problem is that so far the Vikings haven't come close to delivering on Zygi's vision. In fact, they have been everything ownership wanted to avoid.

Mike Tice, coaching in the final season of his contract, led the Vikings to a 9-7 finish in 2005. The Wilfs first showed how impulsive they could be when they only waited a few minutes after the Vikings closed the season with a 34-10 win over the Chicago Bears before firing Tice. (The Bears already were in the playoffs and had nothing to play for that day.)

The fact Tice was fired so quickly surprised many but his dismissal was expected. The Wilfs were getting their first taste as owners and they wanted to spend a year observing things.

The Love Boat fiasco during the Vikings bye week helped to seal Tice's fate, even if that wasn't entirely fair.

The Wilfs began their first coaching search in January 2006 and again showed their impulsive nature when they brought Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress to town, put him up in a downtown hotel and wouldn't let him leave.

Tice was fired on Jan. 1, 2006 and on Jan. 6, Childress was introduced as the new coach.

Childress was given control of the 53-man roster making him the de facto general manager. Fran Foley was brought in to help on the personnel side and the Wilfs were satisfied they had a tandem to lead them to the consistent success they so desired.

Foley was hired in late January and was out of a job by early May. Inconsistencies in Foley's resume and the fact he rubbed nearly everyone in the organization the wrong way opened the door for the Vikings to hire Rick Spielman as their vice president of player personnel.

The Childress-Spielman tandem went 6-10 in its first season - one in which Childress was intent on being a disciplinarian - and then 8-8 in year two. Childress also altered his coaching style and attempted to adopt some of Tony Dungy's philosophies in that second season.

If the Wilfs were looking to build something, they appeared to be on the right track as the Vikings won back-to-back NFC North titles under Childress in 2008 and 2009.

The Vikings lost in the first round of the playoffs to Philadelphia in 2008 before making a memorable run to the NFC title game in 2009 behind Brett Favre's MVP-type performance.

But since that magical 2009 campaign, the wheels have come off the Wilf plan.

Childress, returning to his disciplinarian ways and unable to control Randy Moss,  lasted only 10 games into the 2010 season before being fired with a 3-7 record. This opened the door for the anti-Childress, Frazier, the teams' defensive coordinator, to be promoted to interim coach.

In a year that required plenty of crisis management, Frazier guided the Vikings to a 3-3 finish and was given the full-time job after a season-ending loss at Detroit.

The Vikings were a brutal 3-13 in 2011 and the decision to promote Spielman to general manager was made, giving him control of the roster.

The Vikings rebounded to go 10-6 in 2012 and qualify for the playoffs. The Vikings appeared to be back on track but then came some questionable offseason personnel decisions and plenty of questionable in-game coaching decisions.

The Vikings finished a disappointing season on Sunday with a victory over the Lions, leaving them at 5-10-1 on the season.

That means this franchise has been above .500 in back-to-back seasons only once since the Wilfs bought it and overall the Vikings are now 69-74-1 in that time.

This record isn't just reflective of Tice, Childress and Frazier. The Wilfs and Spielman also make take some of the blame for this lack of consistency.

The search for Frazier's successor already likely has started. This time Vikings fans shouldn't be hoping for an impulsive hire. The first guy you meet, no matter how impressive he might be, isn't necessarily the best hire.

Spielman almost certainly understands that once Frazier is shown the door all the pressure will shift to him. He always will be linked with the decision to draft quarterback Christian Ponder, not to mention the inexplicable move to sign Josh Freeman, and he's also going to have a big say in the hiring of a new coach.

Another poor season could spell the end for Spielman.

The Wilfs, of course, are going nowhere unless they elect to get out.

But that doesn't mean the owners shouldn't be feeling pressure.

They had a vision for the Vikings when they took over. So far, they have failed to deliver on it.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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