One of the biggest talking points of the coming week is whether, for the second time in two years, the Vikings are going to lose their defensive coordinator to a head coaching position.
Following the 2006 season, Mike Tomlin was something of a surprise choice to be the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the No. 2 seed in this year's AFC playoffs. Two years later, it appears that Leslie Frazier could be the next to go. His name has been linked with head-coaching vacancies in Detroit, New York, St. Louis and Denver, and his name has also been associated with what is expected to be the pending firing of Herm Edwards in Kansas City.
To a man, the Vikings defensive players have praised Frazier for the job he has done with the Vikings and believe he will be a strong NFL head-coaching candidate.
"You hope he has the opportunity," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "Obviously, you wish him the best and hope he can move into a situation where he can progress in his career. If that happens, we'll all be very happy for him. He's done an awesome job here."
The players have grown very fond of Frazier, whose relatively low-key demeanor was a stark contrast to the energetic Tomlin. The bond that has formed between coordinator and players is clear, and veteran defensive tackle Pat Williams said it will be tough to see him go if he is offered a head coaching position. But Williams understands that in coaching circles the cream rises to the top and is recognized around the league when teams are looking to move in a new direction.
"It would hurt bad, but that is how this game goes," Pat Williams said. "That's how a coach dreams. He's been a good position coach, he's been a good D-coordinator and he'll be a good head coach. I'll be happy for him, but it will be hard (on the Vikings defense). I'll be sad, but I'll also be happy for him."
One of Frazier's behind-the-scenes strengths has been an ability to relate to the players and handle each individually. Some players respond to an in-your-face style, while others may lose confidence if chided or berated. His ability to work with each individual player to his own strengths has been widely praised by the players in his charge.
"He's a great man," safety Darren Sharper said. "He knows how to motivate the players. He does good job of knowing how to address and talk to each guy. That's the main thing now that is more important. Schemes are always important, but being able to get the players to play at a different level (is just as important). Everyone has good players, but to get those players to play at a high level, fly after the football and play for you, that's what Coach Frazier does a good job of doing. He's one of the best coaches I've had a chance to play for."
The sentiment in the locker room Monday was that the players seemed resigned to the fact that someone is going to hire Frazier, but clearly they would like to see him return and finish the transformation of the Vikings defense that he started in 2007.
"Hopefully, because he's up for some of those jobs, he'll get one of them," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "If not, hopefully he'll come back to the No. 1 defense that can still improve."
While Tomlin's hiring may have come as something of a surprise, it is clear that with Frazier's exposure from interviewing with Atlanta and Miami last year has made him a logical choice for the latest batch of job openings.
"That's not surprising," Sharper said. "He's done a great job here and he has a bright future if he does become a head coach. I wish the best for him. He's a great guy and definitely someone you could see having a successful career, similar to Mike Tomlin – going off and becoming a great head coach. You know you can't feel selfish, but you don't want to lose him, because he's a good coach and you want to keep him here, but you know how the business is."
But perhaps not all players feel the same. Following Sunday's game, when asked about the potential of losing Frazier, Jared Allen was his typical candid self. While most of the players Monday were saying the proper things about Frazier being due a head coaching position, Allen summed up what many or most might really be thinking. Yes, they'll be happy for Frazier is he lands a head coaching job, but, all things considered, they would much rather he stay.
"It may be selfish of me, but I want him to stay right here," Allen said. "We made a lot of progress this year and I see that as building. Coach Frazier has done a great job to get us ready for games and it translated on the field. Other teams have noticed that, which is why he's been mentioned when head coaching jobs come open. But that is what we need, so if I had a say in it, I wish he would stay here."
Defenders understand Frazier's rising star
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