Thursday, January 16, 2014
On Frazier's final(?) Freeman thoughts
By Ben Goessling
MINNEAPOLIS -- While new Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is busy filling out his coaching staff in Minnesota -- he is close to hiring Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner to run the Vikings' offense in Minnesota, and is reportedly talking to Miami Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards about being the Vikings' defensive coordinator -- the Vikings' former head coach left some interesting hints when he was introduced as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive coordinator on Wednesday.
Leslie Frazier said Josh Freeman "got caught up in the shuffle" as the Vikings tried out different quarterbacks during the season.
(And yes, we can already hear those of you telling us that Leslie Frazier and Josh Freeman are yesterday's news. We'll get back to your regularly-scheduled, Zimmer-related programming shortly.)
Amidst the questions he fielded about the Buccaneers' defense, Frazier was asked why things with Freeman -- who signed with the Vikings after Tampa Bay cut him last season -- didn't work out in Minnesota. Here's what Frazier had to say, via ESPN.com Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas:
"He worked as hard as he could every week to prepare and be ready to go," Frazier said. “He was a pro in every sense of the word. But we made a decision to try to figure out where Christian Ponder was and also take a look at Matt Cassel because we were trying to determine and get some answers regarding our quarterback position. Josh got caught up in the shuffle. It probably wasn’t a fair situation for him. It made it difficult for him. It made it difficult for all of us when you’re trying to evaluate quarterbacks in an NFL season. That’s not a wise thing. Nothing to do with Josh. He prepared and worked as hard as he could to get on the field. It just didn’t work out."
Frazier made some suggestions in his final weeks with the Vikings -- probably when he saw the writing on the wall -- that the quarterback decision wasn't solely his, and that he was a victim of general manager Rick Spielman's inability to put solid quarterback play around him. His comments in Tampa would seem to corroborate that. The guess here has been that Frazier was told the Vikings needed to see more from Ponder after Freeman's lone start for the Vikings in October. Both Frazier and Spielman have said the decision on the starting quarterback was always ultimately made by the coach, but Frazier might have felt as though he could only go one way, and ultimately got fired after being a company man. But as Spielman said in his press conference after the Vikings fired Frazier, a head coach has to be confident enough in his own decision that he'll make it regardless of what others might think. If Frazier felt there was a way to circumvent the Vikings' quarterback evaluation to win a few more games and save his job, he probably should have done that. Starting Freeman might have been his attempt to do that. But it didn't work out, and Zimmer is now in place as the Vikings' new coach.
We're guessing it won't require quite as much sleuthing to figure out Zimmer's opinions on things as it did Frazier's. Each approach, however, can offer its own kind of fun.