It's just another example of why the separation of powers between a general manager and head coach is a good idea. Spielman can work on what most outsiders and even some within the organization were able to admit needed to be done – infuse youth into the roster instead of the continued and often-failing tact that the team is just one player away from the next step, whatever that "next step" might be at the time. In 2009, with Brad Childress in charge of the roster, the Vikings took the gamble with Brett Favre and it nearly paid off, but their NFC Championship Game loss to the New Orleans Saints shows just how much unforeseen factors – fumbles, interceptions, penalties and injuries – play into a Super Bowl championship. But with all 22 starters returning in 2010, the Vikings found out something else – age can catch up with a team quickly.
Spielman can talk about rebuilding, but Frazier has to be careful how he publicly shapes the roster turnover because he can't afford lowered expectations for his players. And, frankly, Frazier may need to rebound from a 3-13 season and get to.500 to save his own job.
Frazier even addressed the outside expectations with his players during their pre-training camp meeting Thursday night.
"We talked about expectations … one of the things I told our team, ‘You really can't get caught up in what people are writing or saying or blogging," Frazier said. "In our minds, what's most important is what the people in that room that we talked with (Thursday) night, it's what you believe, and if you don't believe we have a chance to compete in our division, or win our division, why are we even showing up in Mankato? Why are we even going through the drills that we have to go through?"
That apparently resonated with some of the more valuable players on the team. Percy Harvin, who gushes about his relationship with Frazier even if the receiver wasn't happy about other aspects of the team in June, cautioned about the use of the "R" word around players.
"We don't use that word around here – rebuilding. We're going to put the best 53-man roster together and we're going to go play football and play it to the best of our abilities and hope the outcome is better than last year," Harvin said.
Players like Harvin may have a larger window of time left to win a championship. He has two more years remaining on his contract if the Vikings don't give him an extension later this year or next.
Other Pro Bowl players, like Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield and Kevin Williams, may not have the luxury of time as they advance into their 30s.
"I don't know how much time I've got left, obviously. I feel great. I still feel like I'm playing at a high level, but every year is a concern of if I'm going to win a championship," Allen said. "That's where I just put my trust in the front office that they're going to bring the players in, and our goals match up.
"I'm not in this to rebuild. I'm in this every year to compete for a championship, and they are too. And I truly believe that, and that's why I love being a Minnesota Viking. You know, you just take it year by year and day by day and come back in and at the end of the day there's going to be 31 disappointed teams because only one's going to win the championship. We're just hoping to be that one."
It would be quite the turnaround after 6-10 and 3-13 seasons the last two years if that were to happen. And it certainly isn't something Las Vegas oddsmakers have much confidence in happening. Bookmaker Bovada.lv placed the over-under on Vikings wins this season at 5½. Most in the national media have picked the Vikings to finish last in the division.
That may well happen in a very competitive NFC North, but Frazier can't afford to think that way or even pay much attention to those painful predictions. And he sure can't afford to have his players buying into it.
The Vikings don't have recent history on their side in the win column, but there are some reasons for optimism. Frazier smiles and breathes a sigh of relief that he has a returning quarterback, Christian Ponder, with experience in the system, unlike Donovan McNabb last year. And one who is at training camp, unlike Brett Favre in 2009 and 2010.
While the immediate youth of the team – only 38 of the 90 players on the roster have two or more years of experience – can be a detriment in some areas, there are some positives, as well. One of the biggest is that many of the players acquired increased the team speed. There's Josh Robinson, the faster player at the NFL Scouting Combine who is expected to play a contributing role on defense, and there's Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright on offense.
It may take time to meld the new parts together, but the Vikings also have a relatively easy first half of the season, saving five of their six NFC North games for the final seven games of the season.
Maybe the Vikings can buck history and the chances the oddsmakers give them. That's what Frazier, and players like Allen, have to hope, anyway.
"All you have to do is look around the league and say, look at the last five years, how much playoff teams change from season to season," Allen said. "… You just go back and look at the last five years and see how much that changes from year to year; teams that are in and teams that are out. In this league and the way things are set up now with the salary cap, there's no reason for anyone to come to training camp and say ‘We don't have a chance', I mean that's, you know, if you buy into some of the things that are written, you may believe that, but we want to eradicate that type of thinking."
"I did get into conduct maybe a little bit more than I might have say a year ago, maybe. But for a myriad of reasons it's the right thing to do," Frazier said. "We have a lot of guys that are doing so many good things on our team and in this community as well, but when one or two guys step to the left, as opposed to going to the right, it creates some issues for everybody that's a part of our team. So we wanted to talk through some of that and just remind everybody that you represent your teammates along with your family, and community, our state. But yeah, we talked in-depth about conduct and how we should approach things going forward."
"I love Coach Frazier. I'm a big fan of his. He's almost like a father figure in my situation," Harvin said. "I love him. We was in direct contact the entire time. So, like I said, I'm a big fan of him.
"It was great being able to go in there and open doors, being able to lay it all on the line and him give me feedback. So, it was great and that's the thing you like out of your coach and that's why most of my teammates love him."
It's also another reason the separation of general manager and head coach is a wise one. If Frazier were calling all the roster shots and Harvin was upset about veterans being cut and youth being added, Frazier might be part of the problem in Harvin's mind. Instead, Frazier can play good cop (a role he fills well) and simply characterize the roster moves as Spielman's charge.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.