Vikings GM: Leslie Frazier isn't going anywhere
NOV 01, 2013 8:13p ET
"Leslie Frazier is not going anywhere," Spielman said Friday, two days before the midway point of Minnesota's season in a game at Dallas. "I am telling you that we are very committed to Leslie Frazier and this coaching staff. And we're committed to our players, and everybody is working extremely hard to get this thing turned around."
A season which began with high expectations and promise after last year's seven-win improvement and playoff appearance has spiraled downward with three disappointing performances since the bye week and the team's lone win in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.
One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL, the Vikings have also been unsettled at the most critical position with three different starting quarterbacks this season, including Josh Freeman who was signed in October and started two weeks later.
"I don't think anybody expected that coming out of the bye," Spielman said "But again, it's where we're at now. But we're not dwelling on that. It's 'Hey, let's get together now, let's figure this out real quick and get this thing turned around.' It's more the positive, the focus on what do we have to do to get this thing turned around."
Asked what would define a successful season, Spielman answered, simply, "Wins."
Spielman, who said ownership has been supportive during the tough start, maintained Frazier is safe as the team's coach, avoiding the topic of whether he would be fired in season. Frazier, in his third full season as head coach, has a 17-28 coaching record.
Frazier succeeded the fired Brad Childress late in the 2010 season and has guided Minnesota through ups and downs including the collapse of the Metrodome roof, a 3-13 record in 2011 and winning four straight games at the end of last season in must-win fashion to make the playoffs. Frazier has been credited for his even-keel approach helping the team through tough times and Spielman hasn't seen the effort from the players or coaches fade this season.
"I think that's a strength of our coaching staff and that's a strength of our players and the type of players that we have tried to bring into the organization, as well," Spielman said. "Is to stick together and to bring those type of character guys, like I said, when everything and you're going through the adversity that we're going through right now, there's not guys down there that are bailing out. Those guys are even coming and being together even closer. That's what gives you the optimism that we're going to be able to have a successful season and get this thing turned around."
Spielman has overseen a changing roster that has included purging many veteran players for youth since becoming general manager in January 2012. The Vikings returned many of the same pieces to last year's 10-6 team and added three first-round picks in Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Spielman didn't see this season's fall-off coming because of the youth.
"Usually, when you see drop-offs, more than likely, it's going to be when you have an older, vet team and you go through the process of making changes in your personnel, bringing youth in and developing youth," Spielman said. "This, I don't think anyone anticipated we were going to be 1-6 at this point in the season, because we felt very strongly that with the youth we had on this football team, being a playoff team, that we were going to be able to build on that."
Spielman maintains optimism, he said, because of the work he sees from the staff, coaches and players behind the scenes.
"Everybody's trying to figure out how to get this turned around and get back to where you could win some ballgames," Spielman said. "I just see how hard the coaches are working at night, the players are doing extra, there's always a sense of urgency, but guys really care and everybody's sticking together. That's what gives you the optimism that we're going to fight through this and get through this. You read about or see some places where you are struggling and then there's all of a sudden some divide. If anything, this has brought us closer together as an organization to get through this and get this turned around as quickly as we can."
While the Vikings rank 30th in the NFL in terms of scoring defense and 29th in average yards allowed, the continued rotation at quarterback has added to the uncertainty.
Christian Ponder was entering his third season as Minnesota's starter after being drafted in the first round by Spielman in 2011. He committed seven turnovers and the Vikings were 0-3 when Matt Cassel replaced Ponder, who had a fractured rib. Cassel led the team to its only win, but struggled when he got the chance to start a second straight game and Minnesota made the move to start Freeman, who had signed only two weeks earlier.
Freeman, previously thought to be the franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay before run-ins with the coaching staff, was signed so the Vikings could evaluate him over the season's final weeks. Spielman said he's responsible for personnel and bringing in Freeman, but Frazier has been the sole decision-maker on the starting quarterback. Ponder is starting his second straight game on Sunday at Dallas.
"My specific job is to bring in the best guys I can possibly bring in to help us win ballgames," Spielman said. "Then the coach, who I have 100 percent faith in, will do everything that they think will give us the best chance to win each week. And I think they do that. And so they assess that daily, hands-on deal on everything."
Spielman said Freeman wasn't promised anything when he signed with Minnesota and said the team will still be able to evaluate Freeman if he doesn't start a certain amount of games for the team. Spielman also said he hasn't shut the door on the possibility of Ponder still maintaining the starting job and securing the position long-term.
"I understand outside the building there's not as much patience as there is inside the building because, you know, the development," Spielman said. "But the biggest thing we talked about was where Christian was more consistent toward the end of the season. We probably haven't seen that same consistency through the first part of the season. Now if he ends up being our starting quarterback and playing the rest of the games and you see him come on and see that he is playing consistently, then maybe he is the guy we're going to go into the future with.
"But everybody tried to speculate that by bringing in Josh, this means Christian is done or this or that. That has nothing to do with anything. It was just an opportunity at a pretty critical position on your roster to take a look at some quality guys that are very young still for the position to decide on which direction you're going to go in the future."
The future is very uncertain for the Vikings.
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