An NFL Network report Sunday morning characterized Vikings coach Leslie Frazier's job status beyond this season as "grim," according to "team sources and sources familiar with ownership's thinking."
CBS Sports also reported that the Vikings (4-9-1) have expressed interest in Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. NFL Network reported that the team would more likely be interested in a young NFL assistant with "star power," not a current head coach.
Asked about the speculation on his job status after Sunday's win, Frazier said those reports were "not important at all."
"We are approaching these ballgames like we did in September and October. Nothing has changed for our team or myself. Those of you that know me in the press, that is not my mindset," Frazier said. "We're focusing today on the Eagles and what we had to get done for this ballgame and we'll do the same thing next week."
Earlier this year, the Vikings picked up the option on Frazier's contract for 2014 instead of offering him a long-term extension, something that clearly bothered Frazier. In February, after that happened, Frazier said his assistants were also under contract through 2014.
By avoiding a long-term extension, ownership has more options, but players are trying to stay focused on their job, not the job security of their head coach.
"The coaching staff has done a great job at keeping us focused and maintaining what they want to do in a consistent message and they will maintain that throughout," LB Chad Greenway said. "You can't stop those things. When your team has four wins, it's going to happen. It's the NFL. It's just the business we are in. It will happen if you're a player that isn't playing up to par as well so it's just the business we are in. You have to move forward and whatever happens, happens."
Greenway, who has worked with Frazier as his defensive coordinator and head coach, said he appreciated Frazier and his staff.
"There are guys here that you create good bonds with that you have been around for a long time that have done a great job coaching," Greenway said. "It is not my decision to make one way or the other, but I appreciate the things they continue to do for us to put us in the best position to get wins."
Said QB Matt Cassel: "The season hasn't gone as planned, but at the same time Leslie does a good job of making sure that we understand the game plan, what the strengths and weaknesses are with a certain team and also the key categories to victory each and every week."
Frazier credited the leaders on the team for not letting the locker room become divided during tough times.
"They kind of make sure our locker room stays the way it needs, and that's unified and not let it splinter," Frazier said of his leaders. "There have been so many moments over the course of this season where guys could have jumped ship. We have a strong locker room and some good leaders and I think that's one of the reasons why we can go out in a ballgame like this when nobody really gives you a chance and you're playing with so many backups and still play the way we played. You need a good locker room – high-character guys that will lead your team – and we have that."
DE Jared Allen said he has a good personal relationship with Frazier and the Vikings have self-motivated players on the team.
"When we have a lot of guys fighting out here, and we are not going to make the playoffs. It shows we have a lot of character on this football team," Allen said.
CONTINUING WITH CASSEL?
The NFL Network report said Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman are not in the team's future plans and Cassel is expected to enter training camp next year as the starting quarterback with a young player in the wings.
Cassel approaches his job status much in the same way Frazier does.
"I don't know what the future holds," Cassel said. "The one thing about this league and the NFL is that you never know what is going to happen and I really don't concentrate on that too much, because I think as long as you go out there, you perform, you play well then the rest of it will take care of itself.
Cassel signed a two-year contract in March that calls for $3.7 million per season, but he can opt out of the final year of his deal. Despite being the more efficient quarterback throughout the season, he has started only four games. However, after one of the best outings of his career and the high point total (48) for a Vikings team since 1998, Cassel is looking like the starter for the rest of the season and into next season if he remains a Viking.
Throughout the season, he tried to stay patient. He often said he didn't always agree with the decisions being made, but he didn't make a public spectacle of his feelings.
"You don't really have much of a choice, you know?" he said about remaining patient. "I think the main choice is whether you're going to let that get to you or whether you're going to continue to move forward in the right direction and have a positive attitude and help the guys around and I think that I chose to go that route rather than the other."
According to ESPN, Cassel against the Eagles on Sunday was 7 for 9 for 38 yards to receivers behind the line of scrimmage, 14 for 19 for 173 yards, a touchdown and interception to receivers 1 to 15 yards downfield, and 5 for 7 for 171 yards and a touchdown on passes to receivers 16 yards or more downfield.
PETERSON PUSHED TO PLAY
Leslie Frazier said Adrian Peterson's practice on Friday "kind of clouded my mind" about the possibility of him playing Sunday, but ultimately Peterson wasn't able to talk the Vikings' decision-makers into letting him play with a sprained foot.
"He's pushing. All the way to (Sunday) morning he's pushing," Frazier said. "But just trying to look at it globally and not just look at this one game I had to fight the urge to say, ‘OK, give it a shot.' I think at the end of the day he realized it was the right thing to do. He is superhuman in so many ways, but the risk-reward I just couldn't see it. But he understands. I think he does."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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