Leslie Frazier protects players, who also deserve blame
As losses pile up, is it time for Leslie Frazier to stop shielding his players from criticism?
By BRIAN HALLFS North
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As he's done before following disappointing games,
Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier took the blame for Sunday's 35-10 loss during his postgame press conference, stating he needed to have his team better prepared coming out of the bye week.
Frazier's situation has to be an uncomfortable one. He's in his own "prove-it" season after the team decided to not extend his contract last year following the surprise playoff appearance, only exercising a little-known option in his contract that keeps him signed through 2014.
The ever-loyal -- maybe to a fault -- Frazier takes the blame for performances like Sunday and, in many ways, tries to deflect the criticism of his players. He's respected by his players, but maybe in a crucial year for his future, a change of approach would be good.
Enter Jared Allen, one of the team's core of veteran leaders and one to never mince words.
"I hope guys are pissed off; I hope their feelings are hurt," Allen said after the game. "I'm a positive human being and I believe in focusing on the positives, but I also believe there's something to a little negative reinforcement, you know what I'm saying?
"You tend to remember bad things in the past and try not to repeat them. I hope this sticks in everybody's guts a little bit, sticks in their craw. I hope we come back and remember this feeling. I hope everybody is as pissed off as I am, because this is embarrassing, and I hope we come back and say ‘Hey, inflict that on somebody else and not myself.'"
One of Frazier's redeeming qualities is handling adversity and seeing his team through with a calm, even approach. He doesn't need to devolve into a coach who blames his players publically and only the team knows what is said behind closed doors.
But Frazier can't accept all the blame either. He seemed to acknowledge the fact Monday when asked what he could have done differently to prepare his team.
"You know, I can't catch that interception for them," Frazier said. "I can't throw that ball early, where we threw the pick. I can't do that for them. But just got to get them in the mindset, the importance of execution. It's just so hard to play our game, especially where our team is set up, where errors for us that sometimes are very difficult to overcome. Just got to get them in that mindset, the importance of our execution on every single play and continue to emphasize that; just taking care of the details of their job on every play."
Having two weeks to prepare for an opponent out of the bye does fall on coaching. Minnesota is 0-3 after the bye under Frazier and has been outscored 108-27 in those games.
Did Frazier believe the players were ready in the days leading up to the game?
"I did," Frazier said. "I thought we came out firing on all cylinders, moving the football right down the field. The turnover, we weren't able to overcome it. It would've been nice on the very next play from their standpoint for us to catch the interception that we had, and that would've thwarted any momentum that they may have, but we didn't. We didn't make the catch. And they got a little confidence. But I felt like our guys were juiced up and ready to go and ready to play. We just didn't execute. You've got to execute your assignments."
Yes, blame can be shared from players to coaches, and maybe even in the front office. The lack of depth in the secondary and continued questions about the quarterback position date back to last season. So far this season, it's been an all-phases letdown for the Vikings.
Frazier accepts responsibility, as he should, as the head coach. His coordinators have also come under fire, but Frazier tried to protect them as well on Monday.
"I think our coordinators are doing a good job," Frazier said. "Anytime your record is where ours is, there's some things that you can improve on. They're working as hard as they can to improve. We're going to do the very best we can to give our guys the best game plan for this upcoming game. But they're working as hard as they can to put our players in the best position to succeed. And our players, when they're put in those positions, they've got to execute their assignments when that happens."
Frazier isn't going to turn heel and begin blasting his players publically, of course, and it would be counter-productive to do so. Accountability is needed though and jobs other than Frazier's should be on the line.
Behind the scenes, maybe Allen is right; a little negative reinforcement is needed to save the Vikings and Frazier.