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Updated: April 3rd, 2012 11:02pm
Zulgad: Does Vikings' rebuild give Leslie Frazier time to succeed?

Zulgad: Does Vikings' rebuild give Leslie Frazier time to succeed?

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by Judd Zulgad

One has to wonder what Leslie Frazier is thinking these days.

Fifteen months ago, Frazier was rewarded with a three-year contract to coach the Minnesota Vikings and, along with vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, was given say over the personnel on the roster.

This was expected to be like a marriage, where decisions were made in tandem with both people having their voice heard when it mattered most.

It only took a 3-13 finish in 2011 for owner Zygi Wilf to realize this idea wasn't working. So after the season, Spielman was promoted to the general manager's role and given complete say over the roster. He has since went to work on a rebuilding project that almost assures the Vikings will be in for another rough season in 2012.

While this has turned into a painful process, it's hard to argue with the way Spielman is going about his business. Frazier made a major tactical error by thinking the 2011 Vikings could be competitive and thus keeping too many veterans around.

He also pushed for the trade with Washington for Donovan McNabb, a move that turned into a complete flop and ended up with the washed-up quarterback being benched and ultimately released.

The reality is the Vikings would have been far better off starting the rebuild this past season and by failing to do so they essentially punted on an entire season. The only positive was that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder got some experience.

So far in free agency, Spielman has spent his time sifting through players as if he was shopping at the dollar store. It's not that he's trying to sign players with no talent, rather it's a case of an executive who wants to get all the bargains he can.

This is not going to be the offseason when the Vikings make the type of splash that they did in 2006 when guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Chester Taylor, kicker Ryan Longwell and linebacker Ben Leber were wined and dined and then brought aboard at rich prices.

There was no pursuit of a top-notch wide receiver or a shut-down cornerback this time.

On Monday, the Vikings added their latest low-level free agent, signing wide receiver Bryan Walters. Walters, who spent the past two seasons with the San Diego Chargers, played at that college football hotbed of Cornell.

He was added to a list that includes tight end John Carlson, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, cornerback Zack Bowman, running back Lex Hilliard and fullback Jerome Felton. Carlson and Schwartz did not play last season because of injuries, and Carlson was the only free agent who received a contract for more than one season.

The Vikings will have 10 picks in this month's draft, including the third-overall selection. That could either bring more picks through a trade or the selection could be used on a guy like Southern Cal's Matt Kalil, who should provide a long-term solution at left tackle.

It's clear that Spielman is a man with big-time job security. He knows another rough season won't cost him his job.


That's another story.

Logic would say that as Spielman spelled at his plan that at some point Frazier would have told him, "that's fine, but you don't really expect me to win more than a handful of games, if that, next season, right?"

The issue is that it's difficult to tell what type of relationship Spielman and Frazier have. Frazier was hired by Wilf. Spielman was hired by Wilf. But Spielman did not hire Frazier and the two aren't linked in any real way. Frazier was brought aboard after the 2006 season by former coach Brad Childress to replace Mike Tomlin as the Vikings' defensive coordinator.

Upon being promoted to GM, Spielman made it clear that Wilf would have control over the decision of who coached the Vikings. This is true in any situation. The ownership group often ends up making this call because they are the group that has to write the checks.

However, if the general manager comes to that group and tells them he wants to make a change most often it's approved.

It's not as if Frazier is going to be drawing checks for several years to come, and Childress has had part of his salary come off the books now that he's the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Childress' contract runs through 2013, or the same season as Frazier's deal.

So what happens if the Vikings start 1-8 next season? Given how this roster is shaping up that could happen. Does Frazier take the fall for that when he has been given little to work with?

That hardly seems fair, but it could happen.

Frazier made some questionable in-game coaching decisions last season and if those continue to happen maybe Spielman and Co. will decide they have seen enough. But if this simply comes down to the talent level between the teams on the field it also isn't going to turn out well for Frazier.

Unfortunately for him, there might be nothing he can do about that. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 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