Vikings unlikely to switch defensive scheme

Leslie Frazier hasn't made any changes to his coaching staff yet, but major changes to his defensive scheme don't sound likely. Changes in personnel might be another matter.

As the Minnesota Vikings' structure within the front office undergoes major changes with the promotion of Rick Spielman to general manager, the coaching staff and schemes are still being evaluated.

Through all the changes, the final decisions on the coaching staff will rest with head coach Leslie Frazier, not Spielman. Frazier has been meeting with his coaches, but he said Tuesday that no decisions have been made.

"I'm meeting with them and talking with them throughout this week, and we'll come to some conclusions about what's best for us as we work to improve in 2012," Frazier said. "Schematically, we'll take a look at everything on offense, defense, special teams and just try to make sure that we're doing the right things as we look forward to this next season. It's something that we have to do."

Frazier said he didn't have a timetable for making decisions on his coaching staff, but, in general, NFL teams want their full coaching staff in place in advance of the Senior Bowl, a college all-star game in Mobile, Ala., where a good portion of NFL draft evaluations take place. This year, Senior Bowl practices start on Jan. 23.

From Frazier to Vikings ownership, indications from Winter Park continue to be that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's job is safe. Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac may not have that same assurance.

Some of the talk has surrounded a potential change in defensive schemes, but that is unlikely given Frazier's familiarity with the 4-3 defensive front and the fact that he will be retained as head coach. The decision on what schemes to implement will continue to lie with Frazier, Spielman acknowledged.

"I don't want to eliminate any possibilities at this point, but my background is 4-3. I want to do what's best for our team," Frazier said when asked about the possibilities of a change. "You do take a look at your personnel and you determine what you do based on your personnel. You don't want to jump on the bandwagon purely because it's popular in some other city and they've had success. If it doesn't fit what you do, you better do what fits you."

Two of the Vikings' best defensive players, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen, have both indicated their strong preference to remain a 4-3 defense. Allen led the league with 22 sacks, breaking the Vikings' franchise record, this season and Williams has been a Pro Bowl defensive tackle playing the three-technique and doesn't want a change in positions.

Frazier said he seeks player input on things like that, but ultimately it is his decision.

"I talk with them. They're the guys out there playing. I listen to what they have to say, but at the end of the day I have to do what I think is best for our team," Frazier said. "I listen to their input and it's important to me. They know that. But when it's all said and done, I've got to try to make a decision based on what I think is best."

Frazier has the backing of owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, who promoted Frazier from defensive coordinator to head coach on an interim basis for the final six games of 2010 and gave him the job full-time job last January. Despite a 3-13 record in 2011 and Tuesday's change in the power structure at Winter Park, the Wilfs remain supportive of Frazier.

"We have full confidence in Leslie. It's his first year as the head coach," Mark Wilf said. "… Obviously he is as dissatisfied as anybody with the record. We have full confidence in him as the head coach and leader of our players. Again, in this league, things can flip. It happens quite often. We're confident we're going to be right back to where we want to be."

He added: "I think you saw throughout the year, as tough as the record was, our players fought through everything. They played hard. They played for (Frazier) hard. And again, we need to all get better – ownership on through. Players, coaches – we have to totally improve."

Frazier got more involved with the defense at different junctures of the season. The Wilfs said one of the reasons for the change in power structure was to clearly define the roles of the football decision-makers and allow Frazier to concentrate more on coaching.

As with Spielman and the Wilfs, Frazier also admitted to some failures and said he needs to do better.

"There are some things that I want to take a look at and hopefully do better in 2012," he said. "That's a part of it. Anytime, any situation, whether you're in a win or a loss situation, in my case, the buck stops with the head coach and I understand that and there are some things that I've got to do better in 2012 as well."

Said Zygi Wilf: "The structure does allow Leslie to be a better head coach. It allows us to be better owners, because that responsibility, as you've seen through the success of the league, has to be in that one person who's the general manager. I think it'll make a lot of the decisions that were placed on Leslie – decisions which might look upon as minor decisions but yet takes up a lot of his time – is going to be the responsibility of Rick, and it'll allow Leslie to be that much of a better coach."

The Vikings have several defensive players that are scheduled to be free agents, including starting linebacker E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson, and safeties Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson.


INJURY UPDATES

  • RB Adrian Peterson has returned to Minnesota to start rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee, which suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, along with damage to the anterior and cruciate meniscuses. "As you can imagine, going 100 miles per hour with the rehab, doing a good job, and so far so good," Frazier said. "There are some benchmarks that he'll have to hit along the way, but at this point everything is moving in the right direction. Successful surgery is something we were all hoping for, and that was the case."

  • RB Toby Gerhart had his left knee further evaluated this week, which confirmed damage to the medial collateral ligament. Surgery is a possibility, but the Vikings will wait two to three weeks before making a decision on that. "We're in hopes that he will not have to have surgery, but we'll have to revisit it in about three weeks and take a look again," Frazier said.

  • QB Christian Ponder is doing "much better," according to Frazier, after suffering another hip pointer Sunday. Frazier said the injury just needs time to heal.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"As the Minnesota Vikings' structure within the front office undergoes major changes with the promotion of Rick Spielman to general manager, the coaching staff and schemes are still being evaluated. Through all the changes, the final decisions on the coaching staff will rest with head coach Leslie Frazier, not Spielman. Frazier has been meeting with his coaches, but he said Tuesday that no decisions have been made. \"I'm meeting with them and talking with them throughout this week, and we'll come to some conclusions about what's best for us as we work to improve in 2012,\" Frazier said. \"Schematically, we'll take a look at everything on offense, defense, special teams and just try to make sure that we're doing the right things as we look forward to this next season. It's something that we have to do.\" Frazier said he didn't have a timetable for making decisions on his coaching staff, but, in general, NFL teams want their full coaching staff in place in advance of the Senior Bowl, a college all-star game in Mobile, Ala., where a good portion of NFL draft evaluations take place. This year, Senior Bowl practices start on Jan. 23. From Frazier to Vikings ownership, indications from Winter Park continue to be that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's job is safe. Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac may not have that same assurance. Some of the talk has surrounded a potential change in defensive schemes, but that is unlikely given Frazier's familiarity with the 4-3 defensive front and the fact that he will be retained as head coach. The decision on what schemes to implement will continue to lie with Frazier, Spielman acknowledged. \"I don't want to eliminate any possibilities at this point, but my background is 4-3. I want to do what's best for our team,\" Frazier said when asked about the possibilities of a change. \"You do take a look at your personnel and you determine what you do based on your personnel. You don't want to jump on the bandwagon purely because it's popular in some other city and they've had success. If it doesn't fit what you do, you better do what fits you.\" Two of the Vikings' best defensive players, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen, have both indicated their strong preference to remain a 4-3 defense. Allen led the league with 22 sacks, breaking the Vikings' franchise record, this season and Williams has been a Pro Bowl defensive tackle playing the three-technique and doesn't want a change in positions. Frazier said he seeks player input on things like that, but ultimately it is his decision. \"I talk with them. They're the guys out there playing. I listen to what they have to say, but at the end of the day I have to do what I think is best for our team,\" Frazier said. \"I listen to their input and it's important to me. They know that. But when it's all said and done, I've got to try to make a decision based on what I think is best.\" Frazier has the backing of owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, who promoted Frazier from defensive coordinator to head coach on an interim basis for the final six games of 2010 and gave him the job full-time job last January. Despite a 3-13 record in 2011 and Tuesday's change in the power structure at Winter Park, the Wilfs remain supportive of Frazier. \"We have full confidence in Leslie. It's his first year as the head coach,\" Mark Wilf said. \"… Obviously he is as dissatisfied as anybody with the record. We have full confidence in him as the head coach and leader of our players. Again, in this league, things can flip. It happens quite often. We're confident we're going to be right back to where we want to be.\" He added: \"I think you saw throughout the year, as tough as the record was, our players fought through everything. They played hard. They played for (Frazier) hard. And again, we need to all get better – ownership on through. Players, coaches – we have to totally improve.\" Frazier got more involved with the defense at different junctures of the season. The Wilfs said one of the reasons for the change in power structure was to clearly define the roles of the football decision-makers and allow Frazier to concentrate more on coaching. As with Spielman and the Wilfs, Frazier also admitted to some failures and said he needs to do better. \"There are some things that I want to take a look at and hopefully do better in 2012,\" he said. \"That's a part of it. Anytime, any situation, whether you're in a win or a loss situation, in my case, the buck stops with the head coach and I understand that and there are some things that I've got to do better in 2012 as well.\" Said Zygi Wilf: \"The structure does allow Leslie to be a better head coach. It allows us to be better owners, because that responsibility, as you've seen through the success of the league, has to be in that one person who's the general manager. I think it'll make a lot of the decisions that were placed on Leslie – decisions which might look upon as minor decisions but yet takes up a lot of his time – is going to be the responsibility of Rick, and it'll allow Leslie to be that much of a better coach.\" The Vikings have several defensive players that are scheduled to be free agents, including starting linebacker E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson, and safeties Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson.
  • RB Adrian Peterson has returned to Minnesota to start rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee, which suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, along with damage to the anterior and cruciate meniscuses. \"As you can imagine, going 100 miles per hour with the rehab, doing a good job, and so far so good,\" Frazier said. \"There are some benchmarks that he'll have to hit along the way, but at this point everything is moving in the right direction. Successful surgery is something we were all hoping for, and that was the case.\"
  • RB Toby Gerhart had his left knee further evaluated this week, which confirmed damage to the medial collateral ligament. Surgery is a possibility, but the Vikings will wait two to three weeks before making a decision on that. \"We're in hopes that he will not have to have surgery, but we'll have to revisit it in about three weeks and take a look again,\" Frazier said.
  • QB Christian Ponder is doing \"much better,\" according to Frazier, after suffering another hip pointer Sunday. Frazier said the injury just needs time to heal.
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