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Updated: November 19th, 2011 4:09pm
Zulgad's roundup: Leslie Frazier likely safe, but one move is needed

Zulgad's roundup: Leslie Frazier likely safe, but one move is needed

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by Judd Zulgad

The fact the Minnesota Vikings have won only two of their first nine games this season seems to have resulted more in fan apathy than anger.

This doesn't come as a shock considering the team's spiral from the 2009 NFC title game to the cellar of the NFC North last season left many disgruntled fans with a wait-and-see attitude when it came to the direction of this franchise.

Nonetheless, there were some members of the Vikings faithful who began to wonder if coach Leslie Frazier was the right man for the job last Monday night after an embarrassing 45-7 loss at Green Bay.

Frazier's critics point to in-game coaching mistakes and a lack of discipline, or general disorganization, when assessing why there should be concern.

Frazier did not do himself any favors by assuring anyone who would listen last offseason that the Vikings would be competitive. Frazier had little choice but to express faith in his team, but he likely should have attempted to temper expectations.

It was clear by the end of last year that the Vikings were entering a rebuilding stage and there were folks at Winter Park who understood this. Internally, there weren't huge expectations for 2011.

That's why it's hard to believe that Frazier's job is or will be in jeopardy.

There is another reason why Frazier likely won't have to worry about his job security. This marks the first season of a three-year contract he signed last January.

If owner Zygi Wilf elected to fire Frazier, he would be on the hook for the remainder of that contract. Keep in mind, Wilf and his partners already owe former coach Brad Childress $6.6 million for this year and next.

Frazier's exact compensation package isn't known, but the Vikings are among the lowest-revenue teams in the NFL and with the uncertainty surrounding a new stadium, ownership has little incentive to pay another person not to work.

This does not mean there couldn't or should be changes in the structure of how things work at Winter Park.

While some of the in-game things that have happened under Frazier have been troubling, the hope will be that he will learn from those situations and make the proper adjustments in his second year as coach.

The biggest thing Wilf needs to look at is how his football operation runs.

The plan put into place when Frazier took over was to have him and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman share in the decision-making process.

The Vikings felt burned by having given Childress too much authority over personnel decisions, but the real mistake was giving the head coach as much say as they did.

It also could be viewed as an issue that Frazier has as much authority over the roster as he does. It's nearly impossible for a coach to have the big-picture view that is needed to build an NFL roster.

A coach almost always will go with the short-term fix in order to give his team the best opportunity to win games even if it's clear it's a bad idea.

Frazier, for instance, was the driving force in the Vikings' decision to trade for Donovan McNabb after the NFL lockout. The trade was made despite the fact that McNabb gave the Vikings a firsthand look that he could no longer play in Frazier's first game last season as interim coach at Washington.

The McNabb trade is going to cost the Vikings a sixth-round pick - which isn't the end of the world - but it's a mistake that should not be allowed to be repeated.

Wilf has shown no inclination that he would hire a general manager in the seven years that he's owned the Vikings, but he owes it to himself to at least give the move some serious thought.

Whether that be Spielman or someone outside the organization, the Vikings roster has deteriorated to a point where it needs to be examined and evaluated top to bottom.

This team needs help in many areas, including offensive line, wide receiver, interior defensive line and in the secondary. The cornerback and safety situations are downright scary right now.

This evaluation should be handled by a football person who isn't on the sideline and has the ability to take a dispassionate look at exactly what needs to be done to get this franchise back to being competitive. The decisions made might not be popular and could take some time.

Ultimately, though, you would be doing the coach a favor by eventually giving him the necessary talent to win games.

Taking notes?

The Vikings have used third-string quarterback Joe Webb in a formation called the "Blazer Package" on a few occasions this season, but each time the results have been underwhelming.

However, one has to wonder if anyone at Winter Park is taking notice of what's going on in Denver with Tim Tebow.

While the firm belief here is that Tebow's success, if you can even call it that, will be short-lived, it's also clear that NFL defenses are having some issues with stopping the read-option offense.

Webb is a better quarterback than Tebow and certainly athletic enough to do what Tebow has accomplished. Part of the issue with Tebow is that at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds he can punish defenders when he takes off with the football. Webb is 6-4, 220 pounds.

The "Blazer Package" looks largely like a formation that simply has Webb replace Christian Ponder at quarterback. But what about using him on occasion (repeat: on occasion) out of a read option?

It might make sense and if Webb had to throw the football he would be more effective than Tebow.

Donation rejected

Vikings linebackers E.J. and Erin Henderson thought they were going to be able to give something back to their high school in Maryland but it turns out that won't be the case.

The brothers were set to donate $20,000 of the $50,000 needed to replace the old and outdated scoreboard at Aberdeen High.

However, WJZ-TV in Baltimore reports the county board of education rejected the proposal because the brothers wanted their family name on the scoreboard.

The board decided that violates the current advertising policy parameters, according to the CBS affiliate.

"It's like a slap in the face, honestly," Erin Henderson told the station. "Here we are thinking we can try to do something big, trying to give back to the community. Trying to do something positive to help out the people who helped us out in different ways when we were growing up and coming up. And we saw this opportunity."

Erin Henderson added that he and E.J. had planned to give more to remodel the entire field. Clearly, that all will be put on hold, if not scrapped, after this decision.

Plenty of incentive

The Twins' decision to sign free-agent Ryan Doumit to a reported one-year, $3 million deal might seem a bit curious given that the former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher has been on the disabled list eight times since 2006 and missed 57 games because of a broken ankle in 2011.

But give general manager Terry Ryan credit for what could prove to be a savvy move. Doumit isn't great defensively but he also can play first base, right field and be used as a designated hitter.

Doumit, who will turn 31 in April, hit .303 with eight homers and 30 RBI in 218 at-bats last season. Once the deal is official, the Twins will have landed themselves a quality utility player at a fair price.

The one-year term of the contract is the best part of Ryan's move.

While a broken ankle can't be avoided, if there is any concern that Doumit is prone to landing on the disabled list that shouldn't be an issue with the veteran wanting to prove himself in 2012 and show that he deserves a multi-year contract from somebody.

As for the Twins' catching situation, it's not going to be a shock if they carry three next season. Joe Mauer and Doumit could both end up spending enough time at other spots that a third option at catcher will be necessary.

Doumit, who spent seven seasons with the Pirates, caught a career-high 106 games in 2008 and also caught 100 in 2010.

Meanwhile, reports are that the Pirates are closing in on a two-year, $10 million deal with shortstop Clint Barmes.

Barmes had been with Houston and there was some thought, especially from colleague Phil Mackey, that the Twins would be wise to make a run at him.

However, it doesn't sound as if the Twins pursued Barmes. The Brewers and Giants reportedly expressed interest.

Not so fast

Ricky Rubio was expected to finally play for the Timberwolves this season. But with the NBA lockout threatening to wipe out the entire 2011-12 schedule, the 21-year-old guard now needs somewhere to play.

That could be back with his former Barcelona team.

According to the Associated Press, Rubio told Catalan radio ONA FM that "I want to wait until I see there is no chance of resolving the situation, and then I will sign with another team."

Rubio also said he would contact Barcelona to see if he could practice with the team.

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.
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