The Vikings just finished their press conference a little bit ago where Zygi Wilf read a prepared statement saying lots of politically correct things about Leslie Frazier being "respected" but still wanting to go in "a different direction." He looked terribly awkward and then quickly left, thereby avoiding any direct questions from the media. That was followed by Rick Spielman's press conference where he answered questions from reporters for about 20 minutes. He addressed the firing of Leslie Frazier as well as the future direction of the franchise with specific comments about the new head coaching search and the quarterback position. Here is a quick summary and some rapid reactions, but feel free to watch it in it's entirety here.
According to Rick Spielman, the firing of Frazier came primarily from Zygi Wilf and I was surprised he didn't take full responsibility for that action, especially considering the fact that Spielman and Frazier appeared to have some conflicting remarks and philosophies about the QB position. While Spielman did take full responsibility for the current state of the Vikings QBs (and roster at large), he did state that it was ultimately the head coach's decision about who to start on Sundays. Spielman said, "I would never want to say, 'You have to play this guy or that guy.' That's not my role." That is sort of in conflict with Frazier's comments in his post-game press conference yesterday where he said, "You can make decisions, but they [ownership and general manager] need to sign off on it. So yeah, we discussed each one of those [QB] moves." Regardless, it doesn't sound at all like Spielman and Frazier were on the same page regarding the QB position.
And Spielman said the "entire body of work" was considered when firing Frazier, which obviously would include his 8-23-1 record in 2011 and 2013 combined. Considering that 2012's season record of 10-6, and subsequent playoff appearance might have just as well been an anomaly on the heels of Peterson's near-record breaking MVP season, it's easy to understand that in a results based business like the NFL, firing Frazier makes sense based on the wins and losses alone. And Wilf has repeatedly stated his desire to win and bring a championship to Minnesota.
So where does the franchise go from here? Spielman addressed that too in some sense. With regards to the next head coach, he called the process "tedious" and that they were already looking at head coaching candidates. Spielman has 13 aspects on which he grades head coaches, and anyone regardless of experience will be considered. He wants to get interviews underway in the next 3-4 days and have someone hired before the Senior Bowl on January 25th. He also said that once he has it narrowed down to 2-3 candidates, he will run it by ownership who will have a say in who is ultimately hired. So the team will be moving quickly and have a new head coach in place within the next month. Spielman also mentioned that the current assistants and coordinators are all still "under contract" and will need to see his approval to pursue positions elsewhere. It remains to be seen who might be kept and who might not, but those decisions will likely be made by the next head coach. In my opinion the only coordinator worth keeping would be Special Teams coach Mike Priefer who has consistently coached a top notch unit, and had a major hand in drafting and fixing Blair Walsh. This will be an interesting process to track and watch play out.
As for the QB position, there was a rare, and interesting admission of failure on the part of Spielman when he said, "I haven't gotten it right." That would clearly be an admonishing of Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman...and probably Matt Cassel as well. Seeing as how Cassel was the "least worst" option in 2013 from both a statistical efficiency and win/loss perspective, and that he expressed a desire to return to Minnesota in 2014, it seems likely that we'll have at least one veteran option on the roster next year. But they will clearly be looking for a long term option. Spielman also said that he would rely on the new head coach to help find "the right one", and that ultimately points to a high round draft pick in 2014, based on the likely dearth of options available in free agency. As for Ponder and Freeman's future in Minnesota, it's anyone's guess what will happen there.
So, we'll have plenty of things to look forward to in the coming weeks, and this offseason will once again be anything but boring. Rick Spielman thinks the head coaching vacancy is a "very attractive job" due to the fact that the roster is young, and that the Vikings will also be in a very good cap situation next year. Not to mention that the new head coach won't be tied to any particular quarterback. That will give Rick Spielman and the next head coach numerous directions to go in free agency and the draft. The possibilities will truly be infinite (let the endless mocks begin!). So, even though our season is officially over, keep your eyeballs glued to the Daily Norseman this offseason as we'll have all the coverage we can fit in for your reading pleasure. It starts...now.