Less than one year ago, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was fielding questions about his job security. After a month of escalating inquiries about his job status, the always accommodating head coach got about as stern as it gets for him, telling a reporter to "let it go," referring to the repeated questions regarding his job security.
"I've got great bosses, and they've been very supportive. Write that. Very supportive. Even in the midst of … a 3-12 season. They've been very supportive, which I'm thankful for," Frazier said in December 2011.
"I haven't been told I'm back for sure. It never has been an issue. I'm being completely honest with you. My job security has never been an issue other than when I'm talking to you guys (reporters). That's the truth. We're going to get this thing turned eventually. We'll get it done."
About 10 months later, "eventually" appears to be now. With a 4-1 record, the Vikings have already exceeded their win total from the 2011 season. They have steadily risen up the Associated Press Pro32 Power Rankings, starting the season at No. 28 and working their way up to the present spot at No. 8.
Their odds to win the Super Bowl started at 200/1, according to Bovada.lv. Now they are down to 40/1.
But, just as Frazier survived the criticism of his laid-back coaching style during trying times last year, he also isn't about to buy into the hype this year.
"You've been in it a long time. I've been around a long time. It's not surprising," Frazier said when asked about how quickly outside attitudes change. "It's just the nature of the business today, especially with talk radio, the Internet. That's how it is."
The shift in perception is even more pronounced when looking at the past five weeks.
Clark Judge of CBSSports.com voted the Vikings 31st in his ballot on the AP rankings to start the season. "I don't know how these guys survive in (the) NFC North," Judge wrote then.
And now? "This is the most surprising team out there. I don't know how Leslie Frazier is doing it, but it's great to have the Vikings back on the map," wrote Judge, who voted the Vikings seventh in his most recent ballot.
Former Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon, now part of SiriusXM Radio, had similar sentiments to start the season. He voted the Vikings 30th at the time, writing, "Really like Leslie Frazier, but he doesn't have much to work with."
Gannon now has the Vikings ninth on his ballot, but backed up his initial thoughts about the talent on the roster and the job Frazier is doing: "Right now Leslie Frazier is the front runner for Coach of the Year."
But while the Vikings have already surpassed their win total from 2011, another look back at some of Frazier's quotes from 10 months ago showed prescience about his outlook. He realized the struggles the team was going through and accepted a modicum of inquiry about his job security, but he also believed it would all come around for a young team.
"It is a journey, it's a part of what we have to go through to get to where we want eventually," he said in December. "I don't foresee us forever being in this situation. There are some things that we are all learning from what we are experiencing, and I really believe that we will look back on it in time and say, ‘OK, this is what happened in 2011 and this is why we are better in 2012 because of what happened in 2011.'"
At this point, those words seem almost prophetic. At 4-1, the Vikings could be favored in three or four of their next five games before the bye. They travel to the Washington Redskins Sunday and to Seattle on Nov. 4, with home games against Arizona, Tampa Bay and Detroit left before their Nov. 18 off week.
But, despite all the revised forecasts and increasing backslaps, Frazier continues to let the criticisms and accolades roll off his shoulders with seemingly effortless aplomb.
"I think you have to, the criticism or even the praise," he said. "In December, if for some reason we falter in October and November, all that stuff will start again. That's the way it is. You have to be strong in who you are and you have to have a strong belief in what you're doing, and why you're doing what you're doing. You don't want to be controlled by the emotions of what people say and don't say. You don't want that to happen."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Criticized to celebrated, Frazier resolute
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