Leslie Frazier has preached tunnel vision on the next opponent since he took over as interim head coach. That attitude has been helpful in getting him a winning record (3-2) since taking over despite a flurry of distractions, including relocated and postponed games.
Now, however, with the end of the season just four days away, his uncertain job status looms at the end of that tunnel. So far, the only talks he has had with owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have been discussing the most recent game. After a 24-14 upset win in Philadelphia in which the Vikings entered the game as 14-point underdogs and with Joe Webb making his first NFL start at quarterback, his communication with ownership was positive.
"It was a congratulatory phone call, and they were really pleased with the way our players played and the effort that they gave, and they were very complimentary," Frazier said.
Throughout the last five weeks, Frazier has maintained a focus on the upcoming game and he's deflected talk of his long-term future with the Vikings or any other team, preferring to concentrate on getting the players in a good state of mind.
"I know what they've experienced. It's been a tough year and the last few weeks have been extremely tough," he said. "But for those guys to keep their nose to the grindstone and come to work every day like they have, they practice hard."
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Philadelphia, said he hopes the team's win against a quality Eagles team gets Frazier the long-term gig.
"I hope this seals it up for him," Winfield told NBC after the game. "He's a great head coach, a great motivator. Just a great player's coach. His door is always open. We can always go up there and talk to him. He's played the game so he understands us. I hope the Wilfs go ahead and let him have the job."
That seems more and more likely as Frazier's calming presence has helped guide the team through myriad distractions and stresses. While former head coach Brad Childress let his veterans committee wane over the last year, Frazier formed his own group and has relied on them heavily over the past month.
After losing two straight games and without the benefit of the playoffs as motivation, he turned to them once again before the Philadelphia game, imploring the veterans to set the tone for the younger players.
"The one thing that I talked about when I was asked to take this role and one of the reasons I wanted to be in this role, I wanted to see our guys be successful because I just know that we have great people on this football team and great people in this organization," Frazier said. "I felt like I could help them be more successful than we were. To see them come out and play the way they played (Tuesday), that's what makes me extremely proud of our guys. I'll be fine, but I just wanted our guys to be able to feel the feeling that they have (after a big win). They deserve it."
With only one game remaining, Frazier said he would like to talk to the Wilfs "hopefully real soon" about leading the team into the future.
When he took the job, there were no promises and no timeline for discussing his future. But on Monday, other teams will be free to talk to Frazier about their vacant coaching jobs.
"Just the fact that you've got one more game to go now, it will probably happen pretty soon now," Frazier said.
The Vikings will be preparing for the Lions with a short week. Players had Wednesday off and practice resumes on Thursday and Friday, but several players are expected to be held out or limited as they recover from a game only two days ago.
"We'll have to curtail some things and at the same time try to get them as much information as we can get them regarding Detroit," Frazier said. "They are a different team than the one that we played early in the season, but we can't approach it the same way we would if it were an ordinary week. We lost a day already … (Thursday) will be more of a mental day. We want to give them a chance to get their legs back, to recoup physically and then Friday we'll have somewhat of a normal Friday practice for us."
The Vikings leave for Detroit on Saturday.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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