Changes are coming. What, exactly, those changes are with the Minnesota Vikings and the extent of them will be revealed over the coming days, weeks and months.
Even after a 3-13 season, head coach Leslie Frazier's job is believed to be safe. But he will be counted on to make variations to the Vikings' coaching staff, personnel and maybe even the schemes.
"We'll have to do some things to not be in this position again," Frazier said. "There will be a number of things that we will have to take a look at and evaluate in the offseason. As you know, in our business you are just based off of wins and losses and 3-13 won't cut it. We have a lot of things to take a look at and we'll address those things in the offseason."
Indications are that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer are well-regarded within the walls of Winter Park, but Frazier has taken a more hands-on role with the defense at times this year. That was the case again Sunday when he gathered a number of defenders to illustrate a point about the defense while the offense started its next drive.
Changes in the coaching staff and even a hard look at the schemes being used will be part of the offseason evaluations between now and the start of their minicamps in May.
"I think you have to look at everything," Frazier said. "I don't think you cannot look at everything. You have to go back and look and make decisions not based on any one thing. There are a number of things to make those decisions on and you have to look at everything."
Players will return to Winter Park one more time on Monday morning as part of the 2011 team for season-ending exit meetings, but next year's roster is likely to look much different with more than 15 players scheduled to be free agents, including TE Visanthe Shiancoe, the retiring Jim Kleinsasser, RB Lorenzo Booker, WRs Devin Aromashodu and Greg Camarillo, DTs Fred Evans and Letroy Guion, LBs Erin Henderson and E.J. Henderson, and safeties Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson, among others.
Frazier's tenure this season has brought some puzzling decisions that, when combined with the Vikings' record, has caused many fans to question the rookie head coach. The latest bit of confusion happened in Sunday's finale when the Vikings took a timeout with 59 seconds left in the first half to consider their options, sent their field goal unit on the field and then had some of their offensive players running onto the field without enough time to make that change. Ryan Longwell hit the 26-yard field goal to draw the Vikings within one point, 14-13 at the half.
"I was thinking about whether or not we wanted to get the points or try to get a touchdown. I made the decision to just get the points, knowing that we'll be back down in the red zone again where we'll have some opportunities and we did. We just weren't able to capitalize and that was it."
One thing that isn't expected to change is Frazier's starting quarterback. He said he will head into the offseason with Christian Ponder as his starter, but allowed that things will be sorted out during training camp. The players surrounding Ponder, Frazier admitted, need to improve and be upgraded.
But, despite a 3-13 season that Frazier entered with hopes of being competitive, he was encouraged that his players continued to work hard when the playoffs were a long-ago hope.
"I just expressed my appreciation for the fight they showed throughout the year. With as difficult as this season has been with the number of close losses we have had, for them to show the resolve that they have shown and keep coming back and fighting, you don't always see that as you approach the month of December in the fashion that we were in."
Frazier said he has a better handle on his personnel after his first season as head coach, and that includes knowing where they are short-handed with talent.
With the No. 3 overall draft pick and plenty of decisions to be made with veterans, from free agents to those that could be asked to renegotiate their contract, the head coach knows he can't afford another clunker of a season in 2012.
"We have to be a lot better," Frazier said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.
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