Leslie Frazier has been the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings for 39 games since taking over for Brad Childress late in 2010. To say that his tenure has been a bit of a roller coaster would be pretty accurate.
After taking the helm for a 3-7 team in 2010, he managed to rally the team to a 3-3 finish while dealing with the team's stadium falling apart, games being relocated, games being delayed, being down to his third-string quarterback, and various other issues. The NFL lockout prior to the 2011 season largely robbed him of an opportunity to get his team prepared during mini-camps (including the extra sessions he would have gotten as a new head coach), and he took a very young team to one of the worst records of the NFL at 3-13.
In 2012, after finally getting an opportunity to implement his full off-season program and fueled by what is turning into one of Minnesota's most successful draft classes, the Vikings. . .who were expected to be in contention for the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. . .surprised everybody by putting together a 10-6 record. That record included a four-game winning streak to end the season against what many thought was the toughest schedule any team faced during that stretch.
Thanks to Frazier, and also to General Manager Rick Spielman, the entire atmosphere around Winter Park has changed. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune highlights that trend in his most recent article.
For decades, when you left the Vikings' Winter Park facility, you needed a long shower. Maybe even a luffa.
You were constantly confronted with the ugly realities of an ugly business, from ownership and management infighting to angry and sometimes felonious players. Paranoia often ruled, and often for good reason. The Vikings had a lot to hide.
These days, the franchise that brought you such great hits as Denny Green's Basement Tapes, The Love Boat, the Original Whizzinator and "Straight Cash, Homey,'' has become the kind of place you wouldn't mind bringing your children.
Frazier is still viewed as a middle of the pack coach at this point. . .we highlighted the other day that Lindy's Pro Football Preview has him rated as a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, and the folks from NFL.com have him at #17 in their Coach "Power Rankings." But with what the Vikings were able to accomplish last season, coupled with another potentially strong draft and still being one of the NFL's youngest teams, the arrow appears to be trending up for Frazier.
I understand that there are some that don't like the lack of emotion that Frazier tends to show on the sideline. Honestly, that's one of the things I like about him. You don't have to yell and scream and throw things constantly in order to get a message across. Tony Dungy, another former Vikings' assistant and the man that Frazier won a Super Bowl ring with as a member of the Indianapolis Colts' coaching staff, was exactly the same way. When Frazier was made the head coach in Minnesota, Dungy whole-heartedly endorsed the move. . .and, quite frankly, if the guy is good enough for Tony Dungy, he's good enough for me, too.
The Vikings picked up a one-year extension on Frazier's contract this off-season, giving him two years remaining on his deal so that he wouldn't go into this season as a bit of a "lame duck." Hopefully, Frazier will give the Vikings a reason to give him a significantly longer deal after this season. After the madhouse that this franchise has been under the regimes of Denny Green, Mike Tice, and Brad Childress, the relative calm and stability has been pretty nice. I mean, for me personally, it doesn't carry the level of excitement of having to write about an arrest every other week or so like in the "good ol' days," but if this team is successful starting in September (and, hopefully, well into January), I think I can live with a little bit of boredom in June.