When Frazier was hired as the Vikings head coach, he joined an elite fraternity. In Minnesota, we don't start shoveling until the snow stops and we don't hire a lot of coaches. In the first 50 years of the Vikings, they have witnessed just seven head coaches. To put that in perspective, chronic money-incinerator Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, has had seven head coaches since he bought the team in 1999. Yikes!
Frazier's ascent to the head coaching job was akin to being named Mayor of New Orleans in the days before Hurricane Katrina took a deadly northern turn in the Gulf of Mexico. He came into a situation where he could have easily "lost the team." He didn't. If anything, he rallied the troops to try to make a stand even though the numbers told them their efforts would be futile. That takes some doing. He did it. He somehow kept a team together that had a three-game "homestand" in three different stadiums – in the process earning his shot in the eyes of not only the fans but owner Zygi Wilf.
As the eighth member of the Purple Blazer Club, Frazier gets to step beyond the velvet rope into the most exclusive club in Minnesota. Who are the Magnificent Seven he joins? Each of them has carved his own niche – good or bad – in the history of Vikings lore and each left his own mark on the organization. Some loved. Some despised. None boring.
Norm Van Brocklin, the Grand Poobah – He came to the expansion Vikings months after winning the NFL Championship as the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn't until I interviewed Vikings players of that era that I realized how many different terms there are with negative connotations. All were used to describe Van Brocklin. Not a "people person."
Bud Grant, the General – The cool thing about Grant is that, while players didn't love him at the time they played for him, the farther removed from the game they became, the more respect, admiration and, I dare say, love they had for the Old Trapper. He knew how important the mental aspect of football was, not simply the physical. Playoff teams coming to Minnesota in January were done before they got off the bus. Give him one Super Bowl ring and they'd be including him in the discussion of the best ever – they still do, but he always gets knocked out in the Sweet 16 round.
Les Steckel, the Tragic Mistake – George Orwell made frightening predictions of what would happen in 1984. Vikings fans would have accepted Big Brother as opposed to former drill sergeant who decided that it was more important to transform the practice field at Winter Park into Pork Chop Hill and create a scenario where the survivors would envy the dead. So brutal was his one-year regime that the most popular bumper sticker in Minnesota said "Less Steckel." Mercifully, he was airlifted out in short order.
Jerry Burns, the Beloved Uncle – I've always loved Burnsie. Unfortunately, the first time we met, he was convinced that he had known me for years and I had asked questions of him that brought out his vulgar streak. Like the dad in A Christmas Story, Burnsie dabbled in vulgarity the way a painter works in oil. It was his true medium. For all the bluster and occasional crankiness (see Bob Schnelker), he got results. If not for Herschel, he may have been coach longer.
Dennis Green, the Sheriff – Green was a master motivator of young talent. A coaching Rasputin, every time you thought he was dead, his team rallied to make enough progress to keep his job. Not beloved by the fans, it's hard to argue his track record in the modern era of the NFL, where teams are built for a three-year run and invariably hit bottom. A man who loved power, once he monopolized enough, in the minds of the players his "us vs. them" mantra no longer stuck. He was "them." The first chance they had (in 2001), the gas pipe went inside the window.
Mike Tice, the Dean of Boys – The only Vikings coach ever referred to as a "galoot," Tice was too closely removed from his playing days to separate the delicate role of being a coach and being a former player. Anyone who suffered plantar fasciitis knows they got no sympathy from Tice. Like a ninth-year senior at Delta House, it seemed somehow fitting that Tice went down with the ship following the Love Boat crash.
Brad Childress, the Other Uncle – It seemed like I was one of the few people that actually liked Childress. His biggest problem was that he came off as too authoritarian. He had a tendency to alienate people. If Tice was Blutarski in the coaching scenario, Chilly was Dean Wormser. He was brought in to clean up the organization and make the players accountable and be the uncle none of the kids want to sit next to at Thanksgiving. If the fans don't like you, you're dead in the coaching business. Chilly frosted up fans and they never warmed up to him. His continued improvement in the team's record (6-10, 8-8, 10-6, 12-4) kept his job. When it stumbled, like Green, the time was right to chamber the bullet.
Frazier joins this exclusive club without a descriptor. He will earn that as time goes by. However, while not caustic or bombastic, you get the feeling that everyone on the team, from the top veteran talent to the guy hustling water bottles out on the practice field knows who is in charge. Tice and Childress never made Bryant McKinnie accountable for his lack of focus on being the best player he could be. Frazier sent a clear statement last week by saying nobody is immune from his rules.
He doesn't scream to make a point. He doesn't have to … which could be his calling card to a long and successful head coaching career.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.