Leslie Frazier's playing experience is showing through early in his head coaching career.
Studying offenses as a cornerback with the 1985 Chicago Bears helped him win a starting job with a Super Bowl winner, but while a knee injury in that Super Bowl hastened the end of his playing career, his days as a player served as a valuable lesson.
During that time, he had intense coaches in Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, but he also saw that a softer approach can work as well when he coached under Tony Dungy and helped the Colts to their Super Bowl win.
Frazier knows how players want to be treated – they want their voice heard and interim head coach he's willing to listen. He may not always heed their advice, but he knows the importance of leadership from his veteran players, which is why he reinstated the players council that Brad Childress had but let slip by the wayside when he needed it most.
Childress wisely formed his veterans committee when it looked like players were feeling their opinions didn't matter. They helped guide him to some better decisions – at least those that would look better in the court of public opinion, like repealing a fine against Troy Williamson for spending extra time to deal with the death of his grandmother. Had Childress leaned on his veterans during the final 10 games of his career, it might not have been his final 10 games, but, in the end, it was clear the effort and buy-in from players had gone the way of the wishbone offense.
Frazier may not have needed a veterans committee of his own at the outset of his career, but he knows from experience that players talk in the locker room and amongst themselves as much or more than they hear from the head coach.
"They are the leaders of our team; they're the obvious leaders," Frazier said of his hand-picked bunch. "If you ask our players on any one of those guys, they would say, ‘Yes, he's one of our leaders that we look to.' It was my discretion; the guys that I thought garnered the respect of our players. There are probably a few more that could be a part of that group, but those are the guys."
Those guys are a mix of young and old, but they are some of the most talented at their positions. It includes players like Brett Favre and Pat Williams, who could be in their final NFL seasons, as well as those who have at least a few more years to play, like E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Steve Hutchinson and Antoine Winfield. Even the younger players like Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are on the committee.
Part of the idea is to impart Frazier's message for the week on the leaders so they can reinforce it.
"There are some things I need to get their input on, but also getting them to reiterate the message that I've given to the team. I think that's important," Frazier said. "Our players respect them so much."
That can only help the respect that Frazier garners. It worked the opposite for Childress. Run-ins with Antoine Winfield and Matt Birk caused them to stay away from offseason workouts at different points in their relationship with Childress, and when some of the most respected players in the locker room don't have a genuine respect for the coach, that can be a cancer that spreads quickly.
"I think every team has a leadership committee or captains committee, whatever you want to call it. We have actually done that in the past with Brad Childress," Favre said. "A lot of times, not just with Brad, it just kind of gets lost in the shuffle over time. I think Leslie wanted to kind of get that back up and running. Not really that there is really any issues to address, but just keep an eye out on how you lead, how you handle meetings, how you handle all of the things is so important, which is so true."
While Childress never seemed to connect with the majority of fans, Frazier is also lobbying hard there – maybe too hard. But give him credit for trying. Through the media, he implored fans on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get involved with crowd noise today against the Bills.
"I can remember coming to that dome in some of our games and even in pregame warm-ups there's a buzz from the fans," Frazier said. "As a visiting team, that dome can be intimidating. I'm hoping that our fans are there and are loud and we make it hard for that Buffalo Bills offense."
And, finally, just as Frazier is trying to keep his players' focus always only on the next opponent, he was doing the same when it comes to his coaching future. Plenty of players could be looking for their next contract or just to get through the rest of the season. Likewise, Frazier could be starting a campaign for his contract as a head coach in the future, but that's not his style.
He isn't focusing on trying to get a meeting with the Wilf ownership group. He's focusing on meeting with his veterans to help spread the leadership to them.
"I've experienced some things in this league both as a player and a coach. My faith gets me through a lot of those moments where I've seen where it may seem a little bit dark for a moment, and light arrives," he said. "So I'm not in the least concerned about what happens post our final game of the season. Things will work out just fine."
Frazier should be fine, too, as long as he doesn't change his approach or become too embolden by whatever power might be in his future. His playing and coaching career to this point taught him the importance of the 53 guys on the field.
"I've always believed that players really make this thing work. You can always draw circles on a board and say, ‘If you step here, this is going to happen.' It's about players making plays in our business and really getting them to believe in the message and understand what it takes to be successful," he said.
"But it's still a players' game."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sunday slant: Frazier respecting the players
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