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Vikings 2011 Identity Starts at the Top

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The Minnesota Vikings' 2010 season has been exhausting with hopes that were never realized and a new and freakish scandal/event almost every week. And, to cap the this disappointing season off, the Vikings nailed down their place at the bottom of the NFC North by losing their final game of the season to the Detroit Lions. Therefore, in the interest of my mental health, I decided to take a little break from the Vikings and all things football.

It lasted a couple hours.

Even in the off-season there is still plenty going on with the Vikings and, despite everything, it draws me back in like a bad habit or a black hole. But the end of the 2010 season left the Vikings organization, and their fans, with many questions and few answers.

Maybe the biggest question that the Vikings will need to answer in the off season is one of identity. In 2009 the Vikings were aggressive competitors who overcame their mistakes to come within one game of the Super Bowl and sent several players to the Pro Bowl. But in 2010, despite bringing back almost the entire roster from the previous season, the Vikings were a sad shadow of their 2009 form, finishing fourth in their division, sending just one player to the Pro Bowl, and looking for all the world like zombies or pod people trying to imitate the 2009 Vikings.

So, in order to move forward, who are the Vikings going to be?

 

Well, in any major reorganization, might as well start at the top. Removing the interim tag and making Leslie Frazier the Vikings head coach on Tuesday went a long way toward setting a new tone for the organization. After the Wilf's fired Brad Childress and made Frazier the interim head coach there was a lot of speculation about whether Frazier would keep the position on a permanent basis. Many thought the Vikings needed a head coach who had proven he could win a Super Bowl as Childress' successor, but with the impending showdown between the NFL owners and the players over the future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (and a very possible lockout) it makes sense that the Wilfs don't want to overspend for a good head coach or bring in someone wholly unfamiliar with the team.

As the interim coach, Leslie Frazier was notable for what happened, 3-3 record, as he was for what didn't happen, drama. Frazier managed to disperse the drama that had been hovering over the Vikings like a mushroom cloud since preseason. He couldn't do anything about the Metrodome collapsing, or the team losing their home-field advantage, or having games delayed, or Brett Favre receiving yet another crippling injury, but he did an admirable job of trying to focus the team in some of the most distracting situations I have seen in football in recent memory, and Vikings players weren't yelling at each other on the sidelines anymore.

Coach Frazier, although not as flashy as some of the names bandied about, is a protege of Tony Dungy, and that ain't shabby. He's won a Super Bowl as a player and as a defensive coordinator, also not shabby. And, Frazier has the respect of his players, miles ahead of shabby. A respectful man who won't micromanage his staff and has experience as a player on a champion team, Frazier is a definite break from the recent past (a.k.a. Childress) and it will be interesting to see how he shapes his staff (already named Fred Pagac as defensive coordinator and gave a few other coaches their walking orders) and roster (no way he'll retain all the 18 free-agents the Vikings have). It will also interfere with my vacation from football because I don't want to miss what happens next.