A year ago tomorrow Leslie Frazier was named the interim head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Since then, he has seen plenty of turmoil in the form of a petulant returning star, a collapsing stadium, a homeless team, and plenty of adversity in the loss department. The question that remains, however, is has Frazier put the Vikings in a better position to win. The team is in desperate need of a talent infusion at a number of positions, most notably in the Offensive Line, WR and secondary, so it’s unfair to place all of the 2011 season on Frazier’s shoulders. Childress’ regime left the cupboard bare. The Vikings’ future was mortgaged for the 2009 season. Then, like so many Americans in recent years, a second mortgage was foolishly taken out on the 2010 season, only to watch the investment quickly disappear. Despite some people calling for Frazier’s head, judging Frazier’s performance on the Win-Loss record would be ill-fitting.
Yet, there are plenty of areas on which to grade Frazier one year in. His second half adjustments are nearly non-existent, as evidenced by the fact that the Vikings have been outscored in every second half this season except two (Carolina and yesterday against the Radiers) and have been outscored after halftime by a margin of 158-70. The penalties, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, continue to pile up, which is a sign of poor preparation or leadership (or both). Potentially most notably, the lack of big plays is conspicuously evident, but again, this more likely a factor of the WRs then it is Frazier.
Unfortunately, Frazier’s final grade one year in remains incomplete. Despite what McNabb thinks, Frazier made the right call in benching him for Ponder. A difficult decision to make for a coach still trying to convince a team and management that he’s the right guy for this job. The new QB has made a slew of rookie mistakes, but Ponder’s poise and control of this offense give Vikings fans everywhere hope for the future. The decisions to release Berrian and hold onto Cook–for now–were both extremely tough decisions to make as well and the sign of a leader in control. There will be plenty more tough decisions over the next six weeks too, as Frazier and his staff must continue to make evaluations on the young talent and assess which veterans should be released in the off-season. With AP and his $20 million insurance policy out for potentially another game, they’ll have time to evaluate the backup RBs too, especially nondescript Toby Gerhart and second-year run blocking FB Ryan D’Imperio.
Over the next six games, management and fans everywhere should be watching Leslie Frazier’s development as much as they watch Ponder’s. They’re both rookies and they both need to improve in the (in game) decision-making department. Until then, Frazier’s scorecard remains incomplete.