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Updated: October 11th, 2011 11:34pm
Zulgad: Bernard Berrian, Donovan McNabb put coach in tough position

Zulgad: Bernard Berrian, Donovan McNabb put coach in tough position

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Less than 24 hours removed from his first victory of the season, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier found himself faced with a variety of questions that had little to do with his team's 34-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The first revolved around the organization's plans for wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who was inactive for the game because he reportedly missed two meetings on Saturday night at the team hotel.

The second focused on the performance of veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was booed at nearly every turn Sunday and skipped a handful of throws off the Metrodome turf.

Frazier might be in his first full season as coach, but he deftly handled Monday's queries while managing not to seem uncomfortable or irritated.

Frazier's message on Berrian was that he remains part of the Vikings plans and the coach doesn't "foresee any future problems" developing with the wide receiver.

The McNabb subject is probably even more touchy -- the reality is he simply might be done at age 34 -- but Frazier bobbed and weaved around the topic of what's wrong and lumped McNabb into a larger group of players with whom coaches will continue to work on honing their craft.

Frazier gets credit for being unfazed and for the fact that the back-and-forth never grew contentious. One could just have imagined the veins in Brad Childress' neck starting to bulge if put in the same situation.

But while Frazier gave the answers he felt were in the best interest of the organization, it's impossible to believe there isn't more going on behind the scenes when it comes to Berrian and McNabb.

Childress, though, provided Frazier with one extremely valuable lesson in how not to handle certain matters last year.

The biggest mistake Childress made in abruptly releasing Randy Moss was he did not loop ownership into his decision and thus became a renegade who could not be trusted and was fired a few weeks later.

What was even more maddening about Childress' handling of the Moss situation was he announced at his press conference on the Monday after a loss at New England that the wide receiver was still part of the team.

Childress then walked into a team meeting and told his players that Moss was going to be let go. That left linebacker Ben Leber, who just happened to come into the locker room, as the guy who had to confirm to curious media members that Moss was on his way out of Minnesota.

That's not exactly a good way to handle business.

Frazier, on the other hand, attempts to be as truthful as possible -- but there is a limit to that as anyone who follows sports knows.

McNabb bristled a few weeks back after Frazier said coaches planned to spend time looking at and working on the veteran's mechanics. Frazier's answers on Monday came off as a guy who didn't want to further antagonize McNabb by getting into any specifics about what has gone wrong.

Common sense says there has to be a succession plan in place for rookie Christian Ponder to take over the starting job at some point this season and the ball has started rolling on it. Perhaps when that happens, McNabb and his $5 million salary will be shown the door.

Frazier was one of those in favor of obtaining McNabb from Washington, but that was done with the hope McNabb had truly just had a down season with the Redskins and could rehabilitate his career in Minnesota.

That no longer appears to be realistic and Frazier is a smart enough guy to know that.

Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated, who was in town on Sunday to cover the Vikings-Cardinals game, tweeted that coaches and scouts who had faced the Vikings doubted McNabb would turn things around this season because the offense doesn't fit him.

Of course, no quarterback fits into an offense when his passes are skipping off the turf.

As for Berrian, it's a bit surprising the Vikings don't just eat his $1.9 million, one-year salary and accept the fact that sometimes a divorce is best for both sides.

Berrian had 48 and 55 receptions in his first two seasons with the Vikings, but he has done almost nothing since but engage in Twitter feuds with fans and make off-handed references to the fact he's open and not getting the ball.

On Monday, he walked through the locker room during the media access period, threw something in his locker and then disappeared into the equipment room never to be seen again.

Berrian could have taken a few minutes to explain what had happened that got him deactivated, but he elected not to do so.

It surprised no one.

Frazier seems as if he really thinks he can get something out of Berrian, but that's becoming harder and harder to believe with each week that goes by.

Once again, Frazier has to know this.

Frazier, however, has told his players the best way to handle matters is by keeping them in-house. By refraining from saying anything critical, he is demonstrating he is going to practice what he preaches.

But in the cases of Berrian and McNabb that doesn't mean what Frazier says necessarily should be taken as gospel.

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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