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Editorial: Frazier never really got a fair shot as coach

Published 9:56am Friday, December 27, 2013

Though no word has come from the Minnesota Vikings organization, every sports journalist from here to the Canadian border and back expects coach Leslie Frazier to be fired after this losing season.

We feel sorry for Frazier, but he will bounce back elsewhere as an NFL coach. He will find success and probably, as fortune would have it, drub the Vikings along the way.

He seems to be a good coach who never was given a proper shot at success. The guy in charge of providing him with talent, Rick Spielman, never gave Frazier a decent quarterback. Yet Frazier managed to coach a team led by on-again-off-again QB Christian Ponder to a 10-6 record and a spot in the playoffs in 2012. That speaks highly of Frazier’s skills.

Moreover, heading into the 2013 season, Spielman took away talented cornerback Antoine Winfield, which only made the defense worse. And Spielman thought QB Josh Freeman, a free agent picked up as the season faltered, was a good replacement for Ponder. Spielman seems to be able to judge talent in all positions except the most important one — quarterback. He also seems to undervalue the importance of defense to victories.

Sometimes this season, it didn’t seem like Frazier was calling the shots at who gets to start at quarterback. Frazier? Spielman? The owners?

The team insists Frazier does, but the beat reporters kept asking that question for a reason. Where there’s smoke, there is fire.

To be sure, Frazier goofed up, as well. He didn’t play star rookie Cordarrelle Patterson enough early in the season. His assistants for offense and special teams have made many questionable calls. And though Frazier has a defensive background, the young defensive players have had tackling problems, coverage problems and predictable, readable Tampa-2 situations.

Of course, there has been another factor this season: injuries to starters. Yet Frazier has won with backups, motivated them to play their best.

Indeed, Frazier has proven he can coach players. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 as an assistant, and it wasn’t all Peyton Manning. Frazier’s defense was key — forcing five turnovers in that title game. He kept the locker room on his side during his tenure in Minnesota, something predecessor Brad

Childress could not do. Star running back Adrian Peterson wants Frazier back.

We recall the olden days of the NFL, when coaches were given more than two years at the helm to prove themselves. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll went 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8 his first three years. The guy ended up winning four Super Bowls because the team owners had patience. New York Giants coach Bill Parcells’ team went 6-9 the year after he won the Super Bowl. They rebuilt and four years later, they won a second title. Bill Belichick sure saw his share of losing seasons as coach of the Cleveland Browns — four out of five. New England hired him anyway and surrounded him with talented players. They won three Super Bowls.

Look, Frazier was given a lousy pass defense and iffy talent at quarterback in a pass-happy league. How was he expected to win again?

At this point, it’s probably too late to turn the tide in favor of Frazier. Whoever is making the decision likely has made it and is waiting to announce it next week after the season ends Sunday.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that Frazier never really got a fair shot as showing what he can do as an NFL coach steering a team with a quality passer behind the center and some talent on defense. Frazier likely deserves greater control over decisions and, hopefully, will land a coaching spot where he gets greater say.

What if the team owners and general manager didn’t cave to the fans’ gripes at every turn and instead showed patience and trust?

We probably will never find out.