By: Tony Dean
Zygmunt ‘Zygi’ Wilf is a business man first and foremost and as such his ability to maneuver and forecast enabled him to purchase the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. He has always been about the development and evolution of the brand. Sure Wilf is a diehard fan of his football team but choosing to relocate to Minnesota as owner of the NFL franchise here has everything to do with the potential for growth and the financial gain that will coincide with the construction of a new facility. The Vikings are scheduled to break ground on their $975 Million Dollar Stadium in the fall of 2014.
In his first major decision as the Vikings, owner Wilf hired Brad Childress as Head Coach on January 6th, 2006 to replace Mike Tice, who was a holdover from the previous ownership group. Childress was tabbed to bring a culture of accountability to the Vikings who had experienced success during the Denny Green years, but in the wake experienced what seemed to be a never ending stream of embarrassing off the field incidents especially with Tice at the helm which proved to be his undoing.
Childress in his third season on the job led the Vikings to playoffs before a first round exit at the hands of his previous employer Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles. The following season Childress brought in a ringer from Mississippi talking Brett Farve out retirement. Childress then led the Vikings to the NFC championship game, or maybe more honestly Brett Farve led the team to the brink of a 2009 Superbowl before everything unraveled in a surreal Vikings like fashion. Childress was awarded a contract extension entering the 2009 season that was to run through the 2013 season based upon his success over his first four season I am sure Wilf had convince that his first hire and major decision as Vikings owner was a fruitful success one.
Childress was fired as head coach of the Vikings on November 22nd, 2010 after a brutal loss to hated rival Green Bay Packers. Childress suffered from a lack of confidence from his team and the fan base because of his demeanor and lack of accountability to truthfully address the team’s shortcomings that found them with a 3-7 record at the time of his ouster. Maybe the most pivotal incidents that provoked Wilf to end Childress’s employment were the placement of Randy Moss on waivers without consultation of the owner and Brett Favre’s inability to compensate with remarkable sandlot style that had helped overcome the previous season for a less than elaborate offensive game plan by the Vikings coaching staff.
Enter the polar opposite interim head coach Leslie Frazier, who would be charged with picking up the pieces in the wake of the fallout created by Childress in the weeks leading up to his ouster. Frazier did very well to attempt to repair the relationships between the players and the coaching staff in addition to being a media friendly top guy in charge just looking to heal what ills the organization. After the 2010 season, Wild made Frazier the Vikings head coach giving him a new contract without looking very hard or basically at all for an external candidate.
Frazier originally came to Minnesota to replace defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin after the 2006 season because the Steelers swooped in and hired Tomlin as their head coach. Tomlin, just 31 years old when he was hired as Vikings defensive coordinator, generated an overall ranking of 8th overall in the NFL for team defense. Since arriving, Frazier’s Vikings defenses proved to be stout versus the opposition’s run game but brutal defending the pass, which is especially significant because his specialty as player and coach was the defensive backfield.
After taking over as the head coach of the Vikings, Frazier’s first major move on the job was hiring an offensive coordinator to formulate their attack with the ball. He chose Bill Musgrave because of his experience with the West Coast offense. I believe this to be the fatal flaw of the Frazier’s tenure as the Vikings head coach and the mistake in judgment that will ultimately cost him his job. Musgrave has failed to be able to take advantage of the mismatches created by teams having account for the NFL’s best player Adrian Peterson and his inability to make adjustments to the offensive game plan, specifically the play calling in game has seen opponents correct their mistakes and beat the Vikings on more occasions than I care to elaborate on.
Frazier can be best classified in my mind as a personality manager type of football coach. He has struggled mightily to identify in game when he should intervene to stem the tide of momentum as many a Vikings lead crumbled away in the 2011 season. Surprisingly, on the strength of a late-season run and what I can best described as the elite-level talent of Percy Harvin and Peterson, the Vikings made the playoffs in 2012. The Vikings season ended in embarrassing fashion, though, in the first round with a brutal blowout at the hands of the Packers. Frazier instead of a contract extension of multiple years had just the 2013 season extended.
It was very clear to most everyone that Frazier is a very good person and his impact on the Vikings organization has been to stabilize and weather the storm. Now it very apparent he is no longer relevant as an NFL head coach or defensive coordinator and his major contribution towards the Vikings organization will be guiding the team through some ugliness into the next Era. I am supremely confident that Frazier will never be an NFL head coach again in addition to Musgrave never coordinating offense in the NFL. The current defensive coordinator Alan Williams has not fared very well either but I am not sure there is a large enough sample size of him on the job to rule him out as a candidate for another opportunity.
I am not sure there was ever a second thought by Zygi Wilf or Rick Spielman to hire anyone but Leslie Frazier to lead the Vikings after Childress was fired. Wilf has been paying 2 head coaches since Frazier replaced Childress and had he made another change that would have meant paying three. Also in the wake of Childress being fired Spielman was entrusted with full authority over personnel decision which I believe he worked very hard behind the scenes to achieve. Spielman looks like he will survive and be fully entrenched for the next round of rebuilding for the Vikings this offseason. Lastly I think the Vikings Head Coaching job became far more enticing for a top caliber candidate when the Wilfs got a stadium approved eliminating relocation cementing the franchise’s future in Minnesota. Also the money will be there to spend on a Head Coach with a decisive vision and acumen. If it were me making the hire I would do whatever it takes to lure current Stanford head coach David Shaw to the NFL.