Thursday-and-Long: Frazier Could Rise From Vikings' Messy Season
But amid those myriad storylines, and out of the rubble that the Vikings' highly anticipated 2010 season quickly became under Favre and former coach Brad Childress, rose a new one -- a story that could put a very happy ending on a lost football season in Minnesota. It's entirely possible that the victory over the Eagles helped secure the full-time (i.e., non-interim) Vikings head coach job for Leslie Frazier, who's said he wants it but is too smart to make himself the focus of the Vikings' story right now.
"One of the reasons I wanted to be in this role is that I wanted to see our guys be successful because I just know we have great people on this football team, great people in this organization, and I felt like I could help them be more successful than we were," said Frazier, the former defensive coordinator who is 3-2 since taking over for the fired Childress. "And to see them come out and play the way they did (Tuesday) night, that's what makes me extremely proud. I'll be fine. I just wanted our guys to be able to feel the feeling they have right now. They deserve it."
Frazier deserves to have that "interim" label taken off his job title, probably as early as Sunday night or Monday morning if not before. He said he got congratulatory phone calls from Vikings ownership after the Tuesday night win, but that talks on a contract as head coach beyond this year have not yet begun. He seems at peace, which could mean he knows something we don't -- that he's already been told he'll be back. But it could also mean he's confident enough in the job he's done in five games as interim head coach (and in all his years as a coordinator) that he knows it's going to work out for him sooner rather than later -- in Minnesota or elsewhere.
Frazier's been interviewed seven times for head coaching positions. Some of those interviews have been suspected of being "token" interviews to satisfy Rooney Rule requirements that teams must interview minority candidates before making a hire, but Frazier (and his mentor, former Colts coach Tony Dungy) have said they believe those interviews have value too. Every interview he goes on increases his profile as a legitimate head coaching candidate.
But the Vikings would be wise to lock Frazier in before some other teams come knocking. There could be as many as 10 or 12 head coaching vacancies in the NFL this offseason, and given his history, his reputation and the way he's got the Vikings playing since they dumped Childress, Frazier would be a popular candidate. If the Vikings don't give him their job quickly, they could lose him to someone else.
Fortunately, it doesn't seem as if that will be an issue. The people who own the Vikings seem sensible, and they seem to like Frazier. He conveys a peaceful, responsible air. He has spoken several times about taking pride in the fact that the Vikings haven't been making negative national news over the past five weeks (a trend more likely to continue once Favre is out of there). The players respect him as a man and a former player -- more than one has said the room is dead silent and rapt when Frazier is addressing the team. And if they win Sunday in Detroit, he's 4-2 as a head coach.
The Vikings' defensive game plan against Vick and the Eagles on Tuesday showed a nimble intelligence. They mixed up coverages and blitz looks and kept the Eagles one step behind all game. "Whenever we would check, they would check right back," Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said.
So Frazier has the Xs and Os credentials. He has the leadership qualities. He has a winning record, the respect of the locker room and the ability to put a strong, positive public face on the organization. He's paid his dues. He's been loyal. Sounds like a pretty strong head coaching candidate, if you ask me.
It looks as if the Vikings will do the right thing and hire Frazier as their full-time head coach. If they do, at least something good will have come out of their season.
Three for the Road
NFL road teams went 7-9 in Week 16, which might be good enough to win the NFC West, but improved road teams' combined record to just 100-127 for the year. My road picks were a miserable 1-2, as the Colts won in Oakland but the 49ers fell in St. Louis and the Jets lost in Chicago. So I am 22-23 for the season picking three road teams per week and need a winning Sunday to finish the regular season at .500. Here goes nothing:
1. Raiders at Kansas City. Not that I doubt the Chiefs as a threat to win a playoff game or two, but they can't move their seeding up or down, could probably stand to rest some guys and I think the Raiders really want to finish .500. It's a rivalry game where one team has other things on its mind.
2. Vikings at Detroit. Personally, I think Tuesday night's win got Leslie Frazier the full-time job in Minnesota. Personally, I think he should have had it before then. But some of the Vikings look like they're trying to get him the job, and I think they finish it off against a Lions team that has no reason to hang its head about this season.
3. Giants at Redskins. One of the easiest calls on this or any board, no matter how rotten the G-men have looked. Washington will lie down for them like it always does. I just don't think it's going to matter for the Giants' playoff hopes, because you'll notice "Bears at Green Bay" isn't on this list.
It's Just a Fantasy
(Or, Three guys I wish I had on my fantasy team this week)
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB. Just don't think anything's stopping him right now. Not even the big, bad Bears' D.
2. Tom Brady, QB. Because the Patriots never take it easy in Week 17. Hey, they're off next week anyway.
3. Arian Foster, RB. His coach says he wants him to win the rushing title. He's got a 56-yard lead on Jamaal Charles, and the Texans have nothing else to play for. Run it up, Arian.
After a Week 16 odyssey that had the Traveling Man stranded in Philadelphia with no game to cover Sunday, driving home to Bergen County on Monday, driving back to Philly Tuesday to cover the game then driving home again Wednesday, TM is happy to be hopping a simple flight to Green Bay this weekend for Bears-Packers. Game might not mean anything to the Bears by kickoff (unless the Falcons and Saints both lose and they can get the NFC's No. 1 seed with a win), but it means everything to the Packers, who are a playoff team if they win it. After what Aaron Rodgers did to the Giants last week, you have a hard time seeing how the Pack will be denied.