Leslie Frazier was a good guy, a classy guy, and a lot of Viking players were sad to see him go. No one was sadder than Adrian Peterson, who recently confessed to ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling that Frazier’s firing hurt him so much, it made him no longer want to play for Minnesota:
“I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t feeling good about being here in Minnesota at the end of last season,” Peterson said in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN on Thursday. “Coaches change, but everything was shaken up.”
I get loyalty, I get the good-guy-Frazier thing, but wasn’t this reaction from Peterson a little much?
Personal feelings are one thing, but objectively, how could Peterson not look at the situation and recognize the need to make a change? You can love a guy and feel loyalty toward him, but you must also be able to stand back from the situation and realize when the team is headed in the wrong direction.
Leslie Frazier may have been good for the players on a personal level, a father-figure for them to reach out to in tough times, but he was also not a very effective head coach. He struggled in many areas vital to succeeding in that job: roster management, game management, coaching staff management, media management; he was weak-to-terrible in all four.
Frazier just wasn’t good, and even if you respect him as a man, you should be able to admit that objective fact.
That Peterson apparently was not able to see beyond his own personal connection to Frazier only proves again what I think we already learned a long time ago: players shouldn’t pick coaches.
Rick Spielman made the right call in moving on from Leslie Frazier after last year’s mess. He was right not to listen to people like Peterson, who probably would have lobbied for Frazier to stay despite all the good reasons to move on.
We hear it all the time: it’s not personal, it’s business. But for players and sometimes coaches, it gets to be personal. Players want to hold on to coaches who aren’t very good, and coaches sometimes cling to players who aren’t very good, just because they like them.
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Frazier at times arguably showed too much loyalty toward his veterans. That loyalty may have inspired great reciprocal loyalty in his players, but sometimes loyalty can blind you and make you do stuff that isn’t ultimately good for the team. That’s why you need d–kheads like Rick Spielman in the front office, who can cut personal loyalty out of it and make the cold, hard decisions that need to be made.
It’s lovely that Peterson was so touched by Frazier, but Peterson is still wrong about Frazier as a coach. It would have been a disaster to keep Frazier. Bringing in Mike Zimmer and his team was the right move for the future of the Vikings.
Peterson appears to have gotten over his anger over Frazier’s ouster and embraced Zim and the new regime, saying to Goessling:
“That changed when these guys came in, and draft picks and different things like that. [I] bought back in, and I’ll let it ride out.”
The word “loyalty” gets thrown around too much by teams and fans, and is too often used to justify bad personnel decisions. There’s no doubt Peterson’s loyalty to Frazier is genuine, but that doesn’t make it any less misguided, when you look at the big picture.