Minnesota Vikings: Why Leslie Frazier Should Be Fired, but Won't Be
Leslie Frazier is proof: nice guys do finish last.
In 17 games as Vikings head coach, Frazier is 5-12, the Vikings are currently tied for the worst record in the NFC at 2-9, and are headed for one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
While few things have gone right for the Vikings this season, one of their glaring weaknesses has been Frazier and the coaching staff.
While I don't expect it happen, the Vikings may be best served firing Frazier and the entire coaching staff at season's end.
Frazier's failure started early
Hamstrung by the lockout, Frazier's offseason was anything but typical for a first time NFL head coach.
The team had just drafted a young quarterback in Christian Ponder, but couldn't help transition him due to the stalemate between NFL owners and players.
Once the lockout was lifted, Frazier was determined to find a veteran quarterback he could rely on to start the season. He landed on an old friend from his days in Philadelphia in Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Frazier was a defensive assistant in Philadelphia when the Eagles drafted McNabb in 1999 and insisted the Vikings bring him in.
While others in the organization scoffed at the idea, Frazier got his way and the Vikings traded a 2012 sixth-round pick for McNabb.
The McNabb experiment was a disaster and after a 1-5 start, McNabb was replaced by Ponder. And six weeks thereafter, McNabb was released.
Bringing on McNabb was Frazier's first blunder, but not his last.
Failure to make adjustments
In Week 1, the Vikings were playing in San Diego against a Chargers team that many expected to be playoff contenders. The season couldn't have started better. Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Vikings led 7-0.
The Vikings would lead several games this season, only to falter in the second half; as what happened in San Diego.
The Vikings led 17-7 at halftime, only to lose the game 24-17—the start of a disturbing trend.
In Week 2, the Vikings dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half, leading 17-0 at the break. The Vikings would lose the game 24-20. Another second half collapse.
In Week 3, it was more the same. The Vikings took a 20-0 lead to halftime against the Detroit Lions—a game they would lose in overtime 26-23.
Should the Vikings fire Leslie Frazier?
In those three games, Frazier's Vikings had outscored their opponents 54-7 in the first half. But ended up 0-3.
It became painfully clear for Vikings fans, their team's head coach and coaching staff were in over their heads.
I know it's a cliche, but football is a game of two halves and Frazier and his staff were failing to make the appropriate in-game adjustments.
The Vikings' opponents recognized what was working and what wasn't, and they fixed it. The Vikings stood pat and looked overmatched in three straight defeats.
This team lacks discipline
The Vikings are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL; they have been flagged 81 times for 655 yards—good enough for ninth-worst in the league.
Even beyond the penalties, this team has done very little to justify Frazier to keep his job.
The Vikings currently rank near the bottom of the NFL in passing defense (29th). They're considerably better against the run, ranked ninth in the league, but mostly because it has been so simple to pass against their defense.
Their defensive backs are constantly taking bad angles in pass coverage, their safeties are missing in action, and their front-seven is getting very little pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Frazier has reportedly begun calling more of the defensive plays, relieving defensive coordinator Fred Pagac of those duties. Getting Frazier back to what he does best, leading defenses, could help get the Vikings defense back on track. It also might help him stay employed.
In Week 3, the Vikings had the ball and a 20-17 lead against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter. It was 4th-and-1 on the Lions 17-yard line, Frazier kept kicker Ryan Longwell on the sidelines and decided to go for it. That was his first mistake.
His second mistake was giving Toby Gerhart the fourth-down carry and not Adrian Peterson. Gerhart was stopped for a one-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Lions.
The Lions won that game in overtime by three.
In Week 7, another Frazier decision drew the ire of many fans, giving talk shows plenty of ammunition.
In the fourth quarter of the Week 7 matchup against the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome, Frazier decided to punt from their own 36-yard line with 2:30 left in the game on 4th-and-10. The Packers got the ball and never gave it back, running out the clock on the their way to a 33-27 victory.
But Frazier's most glaring mistake came in Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons. With about five minutes left in the game, the Vikings trailing 24-14, Frazier made two critical mistakes in succession.
His first mistake was on a third-down run by Percy Harvin. Replays showed the Vikings wideout scoring a successful two-yard touchdown, but the officials ruled Harvin down at the one-yard line, and Frazier failed to challenge the call and play.
While Frazier took the blame for the lack of challenge, that mistake is on the entire coaching staff; not one of them told Frazier to throw the red flag.
Frazier addressed the challenge confusion after the game saying his coaches needed to "do a better job communicating" when to challenge a play.
That was a perfectly valid response by Frazier maybe after Week 1—but not after Week 12.
Frazier's next mistake was even more head-scratching. On 4th-and-1 from the 1-yard line and trailing by 10, Gerhart got the call again—and again he was stopped for a loss.
Frazier admitted his emotions got the best of him and felt a touchdown was a certainty. But when your team trails by two scores with more than four minutes remaining in the game, conventional wisdom tells you to kick the field goal and make it a one-score game.
Frazier took the blame for Week 12's loss to the Falcons.
Frazier signed a three-year contract before this offseason and most Vikings observers believe his job is safe. Changes in the staff are a near certainly however.
The reason Frazier's job is likely safe is because the Vikings are already paying former head coach Brad Childress more than $6 million through next year.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf doesn't want to have to pay three head coaches for one underachieving football team.
After this miserable season wraps up for Frazier, he will get a full offseason to try and right the Vikings ship. But if things get off to a rocky start in 2012, look for Frazier's already hot seat to be scorching.
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