The Sporting News ranked the 32 NFL head coaches, and decided that Leslie Frazier is only the 27th best coach in the league. Well at least he’s not dead-last, I hear some fans saying. Then you look at the guys ranked below him and realize that four of them have no head coaching experience at all, and the guy ranked last, Joe Vitt, has only interim experience. In other words, among coaches who have had at least one full season to demonstrate their aptitude, Frazier is considered the worst. At least by the experts at the Sporting News.
So is this a fair ranking? On the basis of wins and losses you would have to say yes. In one season plus the second half of 2010 after he took over for Brad Childress, Frazier has amassed a miserable 6-16 record. Of course there have been extenuating circumstances. Like the stadium caving in. And Brett Favre’s body caving in. And then Donovan McNabb came in and stunk, and Leslie had to turn to a rookie QB in Christian Ponder who, because of the lockout, was not afforded the benefit of a full offseason practice regimen.
On the whole, Frazier’s tenure has been characterized by personnel turn-over, and at times just plain stupid personnel decisions (some of which, like the McNabb move, Frazier himself signed off on). And it’s true that his first full season as head coach was somewhat short circuited by the realities of trying to prepare a rookie QB. And there were lots of injuries on the defense. Those who wish to defend Frazier have plenty of excuses to choose from, is what I’m trying to say.
This year though the excuses will come to an end. Rick Spielman has taken the personnel reins firmly in his hands and re-made the roster. Frazier doesn’t have to lead this new roster to the playoffs in 2012 but he does have to lead them to a better record than 3-13. How much improvement must the Vikings show for Frazier to earn a third full season? I should think 6-10 would do it. And if they’re competitive in the losses, that will help too.
It isn’t even really about the record anyway, it’s about development. If Christian Ponder shows improvement, and some of the young guys on the defense establish themselves, and the receiver corps gets better and the offensive line comes together, then Frazier will get the benefit of the doubt even if the record remains far below .500. I’m sure Zygi Wilf and Rick Spielman are realistic about the Vikings’ chances this year. They know this still isn’t a good team. They know the challenges Leslie Frazier is facing. And I’m certain they’ll evaluate him accordingly.
Zygi Wilf is nothing if not patient. Just ask Brad Childress. Er…bad example.