Leslie Frazier is going to get an opportunity to put everything he learned as an interim head coach to use on a permanent basis.
The Minnesota Vikings erased any doubt about Frazier”s status Monday when they announced the 51-year-old Columbus native as the team”s new head coach.
“This is a great day for me and my family,” Frazier said after he was introduced as the team”s coach. “There have been many days where I have thought about one day becoming a head coach in the National Football League. The many places I have had a chance to talk to, to different owners and different organizations about their positions, for it to happen in Minnesota, this is a dream come true. I could have never foreseen my being in this role in Minnesota. I wanted to bring a championship here in a different capacity and to stand here today as the head football coach of the Minnesota Vikings, it”s a very humbling moment for me.”
Frazier, 51, was defensive coordinator for the Vikings until he was named interim head coach Nov. 22 after the firing of head coach Brad Childress. The 1977 graduate of Lee High School also worked as a defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, where he won a Super Bowl, and with the Cincinnati Bengals. He also was a defensive backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and a coach at Trinity College in Illinois, where he helped lead the team to two National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics titles.
Frazier was a cornerback with the Chicago Bears from 1981-86. He was a starter on the Bears team that won the Super Bowl in the 1985-86 season.
Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf credited Frazier for motivating the team in the final six games of the season. He said the longtime assistant coach is well respected and is a natural leader.
“He has vast football experience, including championships as a player and a coach,” Wilf said. “He has tremendous character and knowledge of our players. Most important, we were very fortunate to have him on our staff and that he is the best man for the job.”
Frazier was named interim head coach on Nov. 22 when head coach Brad Childress was fired after the team started the season 3-7. Frazier guided the Vikings to a 3-3 finish and a 6-10 record. Minnesota lost to the Detroit Lions 20-10 Sunday in their season finale. In 2010, the Vikings lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game.
Frazier said Monday he would evaluate every aspect of how the Vikings operate to make sure they are doing things the “right way.” Quarterback is an area Frazier figures to take plenty of time to considering. On Sunday, veteran Brett Favre made it clear 2010 was his final season in the NFL. After being knocked out of three games this season, Favre missed three of his final four games and played less than two quarters in the final five games.
The fact that he suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion and played through two broken bones in his foot, tendinitis in his elbow, and injuries to his neck, back, ribs and calf make it appear likely this “retirement” won”t be like the ones he announced in 2008 when he was with the Green Bay Packers and in 2009 after he had played for the New York Jets.
“I cannot think of any circumstance of where I would pick up the phone and say, ”Brett, do you want to come back next season?” ” Frazier said Monday at a news conference to announce his hiring. “I can”t think of any circumstance where that would occur.”
Frazier said he learned how to handle adversity in the final six games of the season. He said he also learned more about the resiliency of players, and that he hopes to help them continue to “buy in” to his system and his way of doing things.
Part of Frazier”s new identity for the Vikings will involve running the football. He said his goal is to use running back Adrian Peterson to help Minnesota develop a “dominant” running game. The Vikings ranked fourth in the NFC in rushing, and 10th overall this season. Peterson was second in the NFC with 1,298 rushing yards (12 touchdowns) on 283 attempts.
“We want to be able to feature the No. 1 running back in the National Football League, Adrian Peterson,” Frazier said. “There”s no question about that in my mind, and then be able to utilize the tremendous talent we have on the outside. We want to be a run-first team and be able to set up things off our run game. On defense, same deal; get back to being a top run defense. If we can do that, dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides, we”re heading in the right direction from an offensive and defensive standpoint. Then just being aggressive on special teams, being able to take it to people and out-physical them. Our mantra”s not a whole lot different than it was six weeks ago when I took over this role: Stop the run, run the football, don”t turn the football over, take the football away. That”s what we want to be able to do and then minimize the penalties, in particular the procedure penalties.”
Frazier thanked Wilf and his family for giving him the opportunity to become a head coach. He said the announcement Monday was “a dream come true,” and that it is “only a matter of time” before the Vikings deliver a championship to their fans.
“I believe it in my heart,” Frazier said. “I am looking forward to getting started with the process, although in some ways I feel like the last six weeks has kind of begun to prepare me for what”s ahead. I have learned a lot in these last six weeks that I think is going to be a large part of the success that we will have in the future. I think we will be able to look back at these last six weeks and say, ”You know what, that was the beginning of something special.” ”
Still, Frazier admitted he wasn”t sure if Minnesota was the place he would become a head coach. He said Monday he never doubted he would get a chance to led a team. It just so happens he had to wait for Minnesota to become the “perfect situation” for him.
“I couldn”t have drawn it up any better,” Frazier said. “Just my comfort level with how we do things, the players on our team, just knowing the inner-workings of how we do things, it gives me a head start on a lot of things as opposed to coming into a new organization right about now and having to learn that organization in the offseason, I get a jump-start because of my history here in Minnesota, so this is the perfect situation.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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