One year after the Minnesota Vikings surprised many with a run to the playoffs, Leslie Frazier has been fired as head coach following a 5-10-1 season, the team announced.
The Vikings have announced that Leslie Frazier will not return in 2014 as Head Coach.— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 30, 2013
ESPN's Adam Caplan (via Sulia) provided statements from Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman on Frazier's departure:
“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings,” said owner Zygi Wilf. “He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community. Making this change is difficult, but what we determined is best for the organization.”
“Unfortunately, we did not achieve consistent success and did not achieve the progress we expected,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “We believe a coaching change is needed to help build a successful team moving forward.”
Frazier took over the team on an interim basis in Week 12 of 2010 after Brad Childress' midseason termination. The former defensive coordinator held on to the role the following offseason before leading the squad to a 3-13 record in 2011.
The Vikings turned things around in 2012.
They ended the year with a four-game winning streak to sneak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record behind NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. The Green Bay Packers then knocked Minnesota out in the first round, but Frazier still earned some votes for the league's Coach of the Year.
However, the team's success was short-lived. It once again struggled in 2013, beginning the year with a 1-7 record. The Vikings ended the season in last place in the NFC North for the second time in three full years under Frazier.
Leslie Frazier, 1 of most respected men in a rough business, did too good a job (IMO) in getting Vikes to '12 playoffs, raising expectations— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 30, 2013
To make matters worse, the team struggled immensely on the defensive end, which had been the coach's expertise earlier in his career. The unit finished near the bottom of the league in both yards (31st) and points allowed (32nd), failing to stop opponents either on the ground or through the air.
Before the Week 17 matchup with the Detroit Lions, Frazier addressed his team regarding the possibility that he would be fired. According to Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News, he told the media:
I thought about that a week ago because there were some reports out there and I didn’t really talk to our guys about it, but this morning in our team meeting I felt like I needed to address it with our players. I want them to just concentrate on their jobs not to be worried about the coach or what’s going on with me. They need to concentrate on this game, this game plan and not let that become a distraction.
At the very least, this helped prepare Frazier, his players and the staff for his inevitable departure.
Was firing Frazier the right move for Minnesota?
The 54-year-old coach has enough experience in the NFL to work for a team in some capacity next season if he is so inclined. Frazier has been a coach in the league every season since 1999, working as a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach.
Meanwhile, the Vikings will now have to search for their fourth new head coach since 2001. With a roster full of talented players and a high draft position, this is certain to be one of the more sought-after jobs in the league this offseason.
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