Viking players are griping anonymously to the media again, and that spells more bad news for Leslie Frazier. As usual, the griping revolves around the secondary. Judd Zulgad got the scoop from inside sources that many on the Vikings are unhappy with the way the team has handled cornerback Chris Cook and his legal issues. The gripe boils down to this: While the active players are out there busting their butts (most of them anyway), Cook sits at home still being paid, and that ain’t right.
It may not be right, but the Vikings had their reasons for dealing with Cook the way they did. Had they suspended him without pay there would’ve been a grievance filed against them by the union. Had they cut him they would’ve faced the possibility of Cook being cleared of assault charges, signing on with a team in 2012 and continuing to grow into a top cornerback. So they split the difference by leaving Cook on the roster but telling him to stay away from the team. In essence, they placed him on paid leave.
The Cook handling may have made sense for the Vikings, but it led to a twofold issue for Leslie Frazier, who reportedly was against the idea before signing off on it. First of all, it gave already whiny players another excuse to pack it in (“Why should I bust my hump for this team when Chris Cook gets to sit home playing XBox and still get paid?”). Second, it created the perception of a double-standard with discipline (“Bryant McKinnie gets run out of town for being fat while Chris Cook gets to stay after choking a woman?”).
The upset players might do well to look at this from the team’s perspective. Cook was a 2nd round pick who was starting to realize his potential before his arrest. Would it make sense for them to just let him go? Would it make sense for them to suspend him and risk a grievance filing? Would it make sense for them to keep him on the team and take the PR hit in the middle of a stadium push? The Vikings were put in a bad spot by a player’s misbehavior and they handled it the best they could. If players are upset about that…tough. It’s a big-money business and sometimes teams have to make decisions that won’t sit well with other players. Here’s a suggestion: Be professional about it. Go out and play regardless. Did that ever occur to the whiners?
As for the perceived disciplinary double-standard? More absurdity. Everyone must know by now that discipline is meted out on a sliding scale determined by the player’s value to the organization. McKinnie went bye-bye because he was old and sinking; Cook is still around because he’s young and rising. Part of being a grown adult and a professional is understanding stuff like that. Life ain’t always fair. Again, try shutting up and playing harder.
The problem for Leslie Frazier here is that, whether the players are right to gripe or not, it’s one more thing piled up against him in their eyes. He looks like a weak coach after a series of questionable personnel moves and disciplinary decisions. The ship just looks rudderless right now, and the players certainly perceive this. They may feel like Frazier is on thin ice which will only make them more defiant. That defiance is so far expressing itself mostly through anonymous media leaks, though there have been some on-the-record statements from guys like Jared Allen, who recently questioned the defensive approach.
You can chalk all this up to the normal frustration that attends a 2-12 season, but I think it goes deeper. I think it speaks to an overall lack of leadership on the Vikings. Once again, the call must go out for Zygi Wilf to hire a general manager. Take final disciplinary and personnel decisions out of Leslie Frazier’s hands and allow him to just be the head coach. There’s nothing Frazier himself can do or say now to get the insubordinate and griping players back in the fold. You need a new sheriff who will swoop in and let everyone know that further bullcrap will not be tolerated. Maybe with a real power structure and some accountability we’ll see less whining and media leaking. Right now this team is full of babies who need a spanking.