In perhaps the least surprising head coach firing of 2013, the Minnesota Vikings started Black Monday by parting ways with Leslie Frazier. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network was among the first with the news.
“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community. Making this change is difficult, but what we determined is best for the organization.”
“Unfortunately, we did not achieve consistent success and did not achieve the progress we expected,” general manager Rick Spielman added. “We believe a coaching change is needed to help build a successful team moving forward.”
Frazier took over as interim head coach for Brad Childress in 2010 and went 3-3 that season. His best campaign came in 2012, when Minnesota went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Other than that, there's been a lot of roster attrition and rebuilding, as the Vikings tried to find the quarterback that could take them to the next level. They will continue that process without Frazier, the former NFL defensive back and longtime defensive coach.
• Tale of the Tape: 5-10-1 in 2013; 21-32-1 in the regular season over four years and three full seasons; 0-1 in the postseason.
• What Went Wrong: The Vikings never found their franchise quarterback during Frazier's tenure, and that was the biggest part of his downfall. They tried with Florida State's Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft, but he was simply too limited. Veteran Matt Cassel was decent enough, but hardly an overwhelming talent. The Vikings picked Josh Freeman up off the scrap heap and inexplicably gave him $3 million to start one game, play terribly and sit on the bench the rest of the season after Freeman was released from Tampa Bay.
In addition, Frazier and Spielman were unable to re-frame Minnesota's formerly impressive defense. The secondary has been singularly unimpressive, young pass-rushers have been hard to find outside of Brian Robison, and Frazier's adherence to Cover-2 and Tampa-2 principles at the expense of the flexibility demanded by today's NFL probably sealed his fate. Basically, without Adrian Peterson rushing for over 2,000 yards in 2012, Frazier's coaching tenure would be almost completely unremarkable. It was time for a change.
• Roster Outlook: The Vikings clearly need that franchise quarterback, and they'll have a high pick to find one. Peterson seems to have superhuman regenerative powers, the offensive line is pretty solid and Cordarrelle Patterson showed enough as a rookie receiver to get people really excited.
The defense is the problem. Jared Allen may be gone, the linebackers are not world-class in a general sense (Chad Greenway makes a lot of plays on both sides of the good/bad ledger) and the cornerbacks are among the worst in the league, rookie Xavier Rhodes excepted. The team needs new schematic ideas on both sides of the ball, and the kind of players able to make a real difference around a few freakishly talented cogs.
• Possible Replacment(s): Darrell Bevell, James Franklin, Kevin Sumlin. The Vikings are said to prefer a college coach, perhaps to assist in future drafts.