The Vikings have given Leslie Frazier assurances that he is safe from being fired at season's end, according to the Pioneer Press. But anyone who has followed the NFL over the years knows a vote of confidence isn't a binding contract.
The Vikings have struggled as badly as any team this side of Indianapolis and the growing feeling in Indy is that head coach Jim Caldwell, despite posting very good records since taking over for Tony Dungy, is on the hot seat.
The reality in the NFL is that head coaches are graded on one basic criterion: wins and losses. Dennis Green took the Vikings to two NFC Championship games in three years between 1998 and 2000. After a sluggish 2001 season, he was gone. Brad Childress took the Vikings to the NFC title game in 2009, but was shown the door less than a year later. Just as the NFL has earned the reputation of being a cutthroat league when it comes to dealing with players, the same can be said for coaches. If you don't produce, you're out the door.
Mike Singletary is the Vikings linebackers coach because he was fired in San Francisco despite producing the building blocks that have helped make Jim Harbaugh the current golden boy of the NFL. It doesn't take much for a coach to fall out of favor and a new coach being brought in to change the vision and direction of the team.
Typically, the Monday after the end of the regular season is referred to as Black Monday, as struggling teams make their coaches sacrificial lambs to energize the fan base. It turns out that this Monday was the start of Black Monday season, as Miami fired Tony Sparano and the Chiefs fired Todd Haley. Sparano's ouster came despite Miami turning around a 0-7 start to win four of its last six games. But the feeling is that those firings may be just the tip of the iceberg.
The firing hit parade started two weeks ago when Jack Del Rio, the Rasputin of the NFL, ran out of lives and was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The coaching death toll already sits at three and there may be more to come.
In the NFC East, no head coach is safe. Mike Shanahan has done nothing to inspire confidence in Washington and Daniel Snyder has a history of falling in love with a new coach and paying huge sums of money to former coaches after they've been fired (see Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier). Andy Reid is under fire in Philly where the impression is that the Dream Team has quit on him. Tom Coughlin has faced similar criticism coming off a four-game losing skid that dropped the Giants to .500 before an improbable fourth-quarter comeback last Sunday against the Cowboys. Speaking of the Cowboys, after yet another fourth-quarter collapse, there is buzz that head coach Jason Garrett is also on the hot seat, although he, too, got a vote of confidence from owner Jerry Jones. There is a realistic chance that the three teams that don't win the NFC East division title may be in the market for a new head coach.
In Tampa Bay, Raheem Morris has seen his players go from a 10-win team to a squad likely to lose 10 games this year, which is often the death knell for a head coach. Steve Spagnuolo was expected to turn the Rams around and they showed a lot of promise last season in that effort. But, tied with the Vikings at 2-11, the Rams are talking about the potential of letting Spags go when the season ends.
In the AFC, three coaches have already been cut loose and there is little in the way of job security in Cleveland and San Diego, where Norv Turner has always been the subject of firing talk, but has consistently found a way to turn things around and get the Chargers headed in the right direction. There is growing sentiment that he may be on his way out, as the Broncos have become the story of the division and the Chargers seemed destined to finish third in the AFC West.
The recent vote of confidence in Frazier may be legitimate, but in the fickle world of the NFL, a vote of confidence doesn't mean much. By the time all is said and done, at least five head coaches will have been fired and some estimates have that number as high as nine – which would represent more than 25 percent of the league's head-coaching fraternity.
If Frazier is safe, it would be an anomaly in the NFL, where head coaches get cleared out at the first sign of struggle. Given the Vikings woes, Frazier shouldn't get too comfortable because sentiment can change quickly and the head coach turnover in the NFL could be on a record pace.
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.
Frazier's job reportedly safe
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