Frazier must make mark as great coach
ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make the air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look of the interview with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
Brett Favre proved to be a coach killer to one head man already, and for all intents and purposes, the interim coach assigned the job had better duck, lest his head gets lopped off, too.
Favre was as culpable as anyone in bringing down Brad Childress, the fired Vikings coach who contributed plenty of self-inflicted wounds that sealed his doom. Leslie Frazier’s first order of business was to keep Favre as the designated driver in a season that’s careened off a cliff.
It’s one of many decisions Frazier hopes to make if the Vikings decide to keep the deserving coach situated right under their noses. The needle barely moved when I broached the topic of his future, either with the Vikings or somewhere else.
“My focus has to be on the now and taking advantage of this opportunity and get our guys capable of playing the way they're capable of playing,” Frazier said.
Leslie Frazier’s name constantly comes up when there’s a head-coaching vacancy around the league — in fact, he’s had seven job interviews for head-coaching jobs. Before Wade Phillips was fired in Dallas, the Cowboys' potential candidates list read: Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and, eventually, Frazier.
I truly hope Frazier has been interviewed along the way because he’s qualified and not because teams need to satisfy the “Rooney Rule,” which stipulates that organizations interview at least one minority candidate. Not too long ago, opportunities for minorities in the NFL head-coaching ranks were practically nil. The “Rooney Rule” isn’t always used in the manner it was intended. Such is the world in which we live.
I asked Frazier if he felt that the interview process was fair. He chose his words carefully before volleying the question away.
“The big thing for me at this stage is to really concentrate on where I am now. Like I told our players, I can’t do anything about what happened in prior years,” Frazier said.
As the Vikings' defensive coordinator/assistant head coach, Frazer always presented himself as an authentic and straight-up coach who would never throw a player under the bus for the sake of deflecting his own inadequacies or that of an ineffective game plan. I know several defensive coordinators who’d do just that without a second thought.
Frazier is true to his demeanor in a world where the screamers will cuss you out on the sidelines in full view of cameras and fans in a heartbeat.
Last week at our production meeting, before the Packers’ complete dismantling of Minnesota’s broken team, Frazier was his usual calm self, but his focus was laser sharp. This week when we spoke he was his usual calm self despite the ruckus that has swallowed the 3-7 team whole.
I can’t help thinking how similar this personality trait is to that of Dungy, whose coaching tree includes Frazier. Frazier won a Super Bowl ring as the Indianapolis Colts' cornerbacks coach and another as a player with the Bears in Super Bowl XX.
“My time working with him and having the chance to observe him just being himself, it reminded me of myself, my demeanor, my personality as a coach,” Frazier said. “It’s important for you to remain who you are and you don’t have to feel like you have to be anybody other than yourself.”
Frazier’s players know that about him. A mild manner hasn’t hampered his ability to put his stamp on a strong defensive group that has finished in the top 10 since he became coordinator in ’07 and is currently ranked 10th in total defense
But last season's Vikings sack leaders have barely been able to sack a potato. They have only 17, which is tied for 23rd out of 32 teams. That, compared to last season’s 46 sack total.
Coincidentally, we happened to spend time with Cowboys interim coach Jason Garrett as he prepared Dallas for its Thanksgiving game against the Saints. Garrett, like Frazier, needs to quickly put his stamp on his team for however long the interim title applies. Both had to get the attention of players just as quickly.
Garrett, in one his first motivational moves, showed the Cowboys a tape of the game that put Miles Austin on the map during a tight contest against Kansas City last season.
Running along the sideline as Austin broke open for a touchdown pass from Tony Romo: linebacker Keith Brooking, who was in a full out sprint rooting on Austin.
“He refused to let us lose,” Garrett said of Brooking.
It’s much the same spirit Frazier wants to see from players during what’s left of the season.
“I want us to play hard and compete every single snap, play the way we’re capable of playing , playing at high level and everyone just encouraging his teammate to be successful,” Frazier said.
As a coordinator, Frazier is an unquestioned success. Now he finally gets a shot to prove he can handle an NFL head-coaching job. It’s a very elusive job at that.