When I ran into defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier at the Vikings' summer training camp, I asked him about his head-coaching aspirations, when he thought he might get a shot and what in the world happened to his once red-hot candidacy. Frazier laughed and said he wasn't sure, but he insisted he was still interested in moving up -- provided, of course, it was the right job.
|Leslie Frazier has nothing to lose in a season already lost. (AP)|
Except Leslie Frazier just did.
In taking over the Vikings for fired Brad Childress, Frazier gets the opportunity he has waited for -- and he gets it with the team he knows best. So it's a six-game trial. I don't care. It's a chance. This is Jason Garrett all over again -- complete with the Green Bay Packers pushing out Frazier's predecessor just as the Pack did with Garrett's, Wade Phillips -- and it's a no-lose situation for the club and the interim head coach.
First of all, the Vikings have nowhere to go but up. They bottomed out against Green Bay, which means the bar is set low -- always good when you walk into a new job. Except Frazier isn't walking into anything; he's just walking across the hall. He knows the organization, the players, the schemes, everything, and if there is an adjustment, it will be minimal. That's to his advantage.
Second, Frazier gains the opportunity he was supposed to have when he was one of the attractive head-coaching candidates a few years back. Everyone said he would land a job, but he never did -- and I could never figure out why. He was supposed to be the next Tony Dungy -- smart, reserved, a solid defensive tactician and a respected leader of young men -- but the call never came.
Well, now it has, and that is not only good for Frazier; it's good for the Vikings.
Just as Garrett before him, Frazier has nothing to lose. The Vikings are an embarrassment, so anything he can do to make them look better -- and that covers the gamut -- will be considered an improvement. The team is listless, lifeless and underachieving, and Frazier has seven games to get that out of a club that reached the conference championship game 10 months ago.
I don't care how many games he wins, just as I don't care how many Garrett does. What's critical is that he changes the culture around the Vikings and gets this team back on track -- makes it tougher, more disciplined, more productive and, yes, more successful.
People told me that Garrett couldn't change things overnight in Dallas, but all I know is that the Cowboys haven't lost since he assumed command. Sure, there's a lot of talent there, but that talent is responding to Garrett as it did not to Phillips. There is a lot of talent in Minnesota, too, with the Vikings a preseason favorite to make the playoffs and make another push for a Super Bowl berth. We know what happened there, and what happened is exactly what happened in Dallas.
So why not follow the Jerry Jones model? Frazier was going to get a shot from someone, so why not be the first to take him out for test drive? I mean, what do you have to lose other than more ballgames? The Vikings aren't going to win the division, and they're probably not going to the playoffs, so find out what Leslie Frazier has to offer as a head coach before anyone else does. You might find the most suitable long-term replacement is sitting right there on your staff. If he does nothing or, worse, screws up, you just let him go at the end of the season. And if he doesn't ... well, you keep him. Simple as that.
That sounds like a sweet deal for the interim head coach and the club that just promoted him ... and it is. Leslie Frazier tries to make the most of the opportunity he waited on for years, and the organization gets a head start on evaluating one of the leading candidates for the job next year.
What's the worst that can happen -- the team stinks? We're there already. This one's a no-brainer for Frazier and the Vikings.
"Whichever and wherever [my chance] ends up being," Frazier said last summer, "I really believe we'll be successful -- just as it's been in other places that I've been a part of. So I know it will be the right situation when that time comes. And it will be crystal clear."
It already is.