Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier should consider pulling out all the stops if he wants to remain employed in the NFL—it seems to have worked for at least two of the coaches he's faced this season.
Something needs to be changed. Yes, the Vikings are making a change at the most visible position on the field by naming Josh Freeman the eventual starter, but that alone is not enough. With an offense that just fell outside of the top 10 in scoring, with an average of 25 points per game, the biggest problems are on defense.
These statistics suggest that the defense has regressed from last season to a point that would suggest the Vikings are heading to one of the worst seasons in franchise history. If Frazier doesn't find a way to turn things around, he will wind up as the coach of record for two of the worst seasons ever for the Vikings.
At least when Les Steckel coached the 1984 Vikings to a 3-13 record, the team had the decency to fire him. It prevented him from repeating his dubious mark of the most losses ever in a season.
Check out any of the comments on any Vikings story, and you will find someone calling for Frazier's head. As well, on Twitter there are plenty of tweets with the hash tag #FireLeslieFrazier.
At least one person understands the situation is not that simple:
That may be the one thing that allows Frazier to finish out the season as head coach. There is no one that can take over as an interim coach. Neither offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, nor defensive coordinator Alan Williams has the experience or the credentials to be a head coach in the NFL—even an interim one.
It would seem that Musgrave has had a difficult time hanging onto a job. With two failed attempts as an NFL offensive coordinator, perhaps he should focus on being a quarterback coach. Of course, he was not able to help Christian Ponder in his three years as the Vikings offensive coordinator.
A look at Williams' resume is just as much of a head-scratcher. He spent 10 seasons in Indianapolis as the team's defensive backs coach.
So, the Vikings' two coordinators made their way through the NFL as a quarterbacks coach and a defensive backs coach—and these are arguably the two weakest spots on the roster. The blame for the failure on both fronts falls directly to Frazier, who brought both of these coaches to the team.
Frazier is known as a players' coach and if that's the case, then the Vikings players have mutinied. His quiet demeanor isn't working, and the team seems to have given up.
Despite the lack of experience at the coordinator position, if things continue to go downhill the Vikings' owners, who have public financing for a new stadium, may have no choice. They will be forced to make a move before the fans rise up in protest with torches and pitchforks, and march on 9520 Viking Drive in Eden Prairie.
The coaching staff does have one other person with experience at head coach—Mike Singletary, the linebackers and assistant head coach.
The last three weeks Frazier and the Vikings have faced teams with the same record. In two of those games, both losses, the opposing head coach made some risky calls that paid off. The Vikings seem to have a problem with stopping teams on fourth down. Opponents have converted four of six fourth downs—two of them for touchdowns.
The first came in Week 3 when the 0-2 Browns came to the Metrodome and defeated the Vikings 31-27. They had just traded their starting running back, and most people believed the team had already given up on the season. Instead they played like a team with nothing to lose, taking chances that led to 10 points.
One of the key plays came in the second quarter after the Vikings stopped the Browns on the 11-yard line.
The Browns lined up to kick a 28-yard field goal. Before the ball was snapped, no one noticed that Cleveland only had eight men on the line of scrimmage.
No one also noticed that tight end Jordan Cameron had lined up wide right, on the Browns side of the field. With no one within 10 yards of him, it was an easy pass and catch for a touchdown.
At the time, it gave the Browns a 24-14 lead and left special teams coordinator Mike Priefer baffled.
It was the second time the Browns had converted a fourth down. Earlier in the second quarter they converted a 4th-and-1 from their own 38-yard line.
Lining up in punt formation, defensive back Josh Aubrey took the direct snap and rumbled straight up the field for 34 yards.
Marcus Sherels, back deep to return the punt, needed to make the tackle. It extended the Browns' drive and resulted in a field goal.
On Sunday against Carolina, the Vikings had two chances to stop the Panthers on fourth down—and both times they failed. The result was a touchdown on Carolina's first offensive drive of the game after they intercepted Matt Cassel.
It added insult to injury, coming off the turnover and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Facing a 4th-and-1 from the Vikings 2-yard line, the Panthers lined up with Cam Newton in the shotgun. Knowing the success that wide receiver Steve Smith has had against the Vikings, averaging 104.2 yards per game, they should have assigned their best defender to shadow him.
Instead they lined Josh Robinson up opposite Smith.
On the snap, Smith steps toward the goal line and then cuts across the field, getting plenty of separation from Robinson and making an easy touchdown catch.
Just like in the Cleveland game, it set the tone for the rest of the game as the Panthers dominated the Vikings 35-10.
If Frazier is going to save his job, he needs to start coaching like his job depends upon it—because it does.