On one side, there is a responsibility to ownership and the fans to explain what has been happening with a team he insisted throughout the offseason wasn't rebuilding and yet has only one victory in six games. On the other side, he has always been a calming leader who rarely publicly criticizes his players.
The problem is that Frazier isn't able to have it both ways when things aren't going well, and clearly things are bad when a team is virtually out of the playoff race before the season reaches the halfway point. Therein lies a battle between Frazier trying to sell immediate hope of competitiveness to veteran players like Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield while realizing it's time to continue his push for the roster to get younger with players that can sustain for the next five years.
After an "embarrassing" and "humiliating" loss – the players' descriptors – to the Chicago Bears on national television, Frazier's patience with his players finally showed signs of wearing thin. For the first time, there was some accountability thrown on the players.
He started by calling out his offensive and defensive lines.
"I didn't see a lack of effort, but we were not nearly as physical up front on either the offensive line or the defensive line as we needed to be. That is unexplainable," Frazier said. "That's what we kind of pride ourselves on, our O-line and our D-line, particularly our defensive line really being the force to drive our defense. We were not the most physical group out there (Sunday) night and that's a concern."
From this view, Frazier was right in one area and only somewhat right in another. The Vikings offense lacked a push against a vulnerable Bears defense. They were never able to get Adrian Peterson going and eventually had to essentially abandon the running game as the deficit mounted. Sure, John Sullivan left with a concussion and Phil Loadholt was sidelined with a knee injury, but by the time those starters on the offensive starters were out, the damage on the scoreboard had been done.
However, it might not be realistic to expect even the league's best running back to be consistently effective against the nine-man boxes that were erected at the line of scrimmage. The Bears dared the Vikings to pass and quarterback Donovan McNabb had no answer. The hits will keep coming unless Christian Ponder can force defenses out of their "dare you to dagger us with the pass" mentality. That's why Frazier had to make the switch at quarterback. He publicly implored McNabb to "let it go" before playing the Bears and the quarterback rarely went downfield with his passes, despite Chicago's painfully obvious approach. When McNabb finally did throw deep for Bernard Berrian, it was a completion, but the quarterback's inaccuracy forced Berrian to break stride and wait on the pass, eliminating a would-be touchdown.
No question the Vikings can improve their offensive line play and become more physical, but a change at quarterback could help make honest defenders of the opposition instead of them having little fear of repercussions against a stacked box with an innovative and accurate forward pass.
But Frazier's defensive criticism may have been as off-target as one of McNabb's bounce passes. There was little else the defensive line could do against the Bears' maximum-protection ways. Chicago saw what was coming at them and made the expected adjustment – keeping six, seven and sometimes even eight players in to protect Cutler while he searched for his limited receiving options.
Maybe that's why Kevin Williams and Jared Allen took exception to Frazier's criticism. Allen said he took offense to Frazier's comment but admitted that Frazier might be trying to motivate them. Williams told the Pioneer Press that Frazier can call out players individually, but the group as a whole wasn't "out-physicalled." The truth is, with the Bears max protecting, it's the coaches' job to find a way to counter it or the responsibility of those in coverage to create turnovers.
Two factors hurt worse than the defensive linemen being unable to overcome regular double teams. The other defenders simply had too many missed tackles, yielding a big day from RB Matt Forte, and the back seven allowed the receiving options to run free too often. Cornerback Cedric Griffin was one player beaten multiple times.
"He's had a tough few weeks, and we need him to play better in order for us to improve as a defense and as a team," Frazier said. "But he's one of those guys we've got to get to come and come fast if he's going to help our team win."
Griffin has blown hot and cold of late, leading to speculation that he may not be fully recovered from surgeries to repair both of his anterior cruciate ligaments in the last two years. Without Antoine Winfield, who is dealing with a neck injury, and now Chris Cook, who was arrested early Saturday morning, the replacement options are either inexperienced (rookie Brandon Burton) or not suited for outside duty (Asher Allen).
While Frazier was willing to call out his offensive and defensive lines and Griffin, he also admitted some fault, saying the coaches have to get the players to perform better.
"It doesn't seem like we handle prosperity very well as a team," Frazier said. "We didn't go up there with the type of energy and focus that you've got to play with on the road against an opponent in your division. That comes back to me. I've got to make sure they're on point when we're playing a divisional opponent."
In one aspect, it's a curious quote. The Vikings haven't had much prosperity, unless you count one win over a losing opponent or playing solid first halves in their first three losses. But Frazier is right in saying it does come back to him. His job likely isn't in jeopardy after only one season, but his popularity with the fans is fading, partly because he has stuck with players that haven't consistently produced. Maybe the move to Ponder is the necessary elixir, or at least enough to get the Vikings to the offseason, when they can look at rectifying the other open sores that are exposing their overall body of work.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.