If The Season Is Cut Short Leslie Frazier Is Prepared.
Quarterback Brett Favre was involved in an alleged sexting scandal that remained in the national headlines. Brad Childress, the man who hired Frazier as defensive coordinator in 2007, was fired 10 games into the 2010 season, prompting Frazier’s promotion to interim head coach. Favre’s ironman consecutive-starts streak ended. The roof of the Metrodome collapsed, delaying and relocating one “home” game. A snowstorm in Philadelphia delayed another game by two days, keeping the Vikings in the City of Brotherly Love four days.
This year, at least all the other NFL clubs are dealing with the same stress as Frazier – the wait-and-see, high-stakes game with the NFL’s labor situation. Will an agreement be reached on time to salvage a full training camp in Mankato? When will free agency start? And what is the best way to deal with a shortened season if it comes to that?
While that final question is looking more and more like it could be moot in a month – owners and players are reportedly making progress in their attempt to get a new collective bargaining agreement – Frazier said the Vikings have still prepared for the possibility of a season that goes less than 16 games.
“We’ve gone through a bunch of contingency plans,” said Frazier, who has talked with other NFL coaches about how they would handle the situation. “You go through a lot of different situations because you are trying to be as prepared as you can possibly be, but everything is an unknown. But you want to be prepared. You don’t want to get caught off guard, although there may be some things that maybe we couldn’t have prepared for. But we’re doing our best to try to cover all bases.”
Frazier was roundly commended for the way he handled the Vikings during their times of stress last year. In the first 10 games of the season, with Childress at the helm, the Vikings won just three games. They equaled that number in their final six games with Frazier calmly (at least outwardly) navigating them through a relocated home game to Ford Field, a nationally televised game that was moved to TCF Bank Stadium and their extended stay at Philadelphia.
Through all the trials, Frazier’s even-keel attitude provided some normalcy in turbulent times. This time around, in his first full season as an NFL head coach, he has been able to make contingency plans just in case the season is cut short by the labor unrest.
“Part of it is just taking a look at how you’re going to evaluate your roster. That takes into account that you haven’t had a training camp, you haven’t probably had [organized team activities], minicamps, if you are down to that [decreased] number of games,” Frazier said. “We’re going through our roster and saying, ‘These are going to be the starters based on what we know from previous history.’ We can’t really say we’ve had a chance to evaluate them in an offseason, so my familiarity with our players, as well as some of our other staff members, really helps in that regards. So we go through our roster and just talk about how we see guys fitting and then just relying on [personnel decision-makers Rick Spielman and George Paton] with regard to some of the pro players that could be added to our roster. And the draft choices as well, just trying to fit them to the puzzle.”
If the season is shortened, it’s more likely that incumbent starters who might otherwise have had their jobs challenged could retain starting status. In a typical offseason, the Vikings would be wrapping up their 14 organized team activities, and with a new head coach in place they would have already had two minicamps under their belts. But 2011 has been anything but typical and the overhauled Vikings coaching staff hasn’t had a chance to work with their returning or new players yet.
These days, Frazier just shakes his head and manages a smile when reflecting on the turbulent times of 2010. Now, six months after that season ended, he offers no excuses and at least knows that every NFL team is in a similar position, even if they are waiting to install a new offense with a new coordinator and quarterback. In fact, now he’s encouraged that a new CBA can be reached and he can get back to coaching players instead of preparing contingency plans.
“You’re a little more optimistic and cautiously optimistic that hopefully something will be resolved. But you just kind of wait and see. There have been talks before, but we’re just kind of in a holding pattern, just being optimistic,” he said before reports surfaced this week that players and owners were in “deal-making mode.”
“I think it’s important to be talking,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to get a deal done if the sides aren’t talking, so that’s encouraging.”
While his coaching staff prepares to head out for a three- or four-week vacation, Frazier has them “on call” in case the lockout ends and the practices can begin.
“When we get together as a team and a staff, whatever the situation is, we’re going to be confident that we’re going to have a chance to be successful in the 2011 season,” he said. “We’re not approaching it that we’re going to be at a disadvantage because all the other teams are going to be operating under the same situation that we’ll be operating under. So all we’re looking forward to is them saying, ‘Let’s play some football.’”
If the season actually gets cut short via this CBA junk I think the NFL as a whole will have to deal with rioting fans. This is absolute crap and the true ‘losers’ of this battle is the fans. We haven’t even been able to complete free agency yet which is leaving a lot of question marks now that the draft has been completed. Teams are also reluctant to give out playbooks as they have players on the team that may take the information and share with their new teams. The owners and players need to figure this out now!