A few thoughts after listening in on conference calls with Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and his new defensive coordinator, Alan Williams:
Frazier said Williams will bring some "new energy" and "fresh ideas" to the defense, but it's clear the Vikings aren't changing the fundamental approach they have taken for the past six seasons. Williams and Frazier are both former assistants to Tony Dungy, who popularized the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings now use. "We are going to keep a lot of the same principles in place," Frazier said. "… I did think a little bit about some other options that were available, but after evaluating our season and looking at our history on defense, we didn't want to get too far away from the things that have let us be successful here in the past." At this point, it would be a stunner if the Vikings shift to a 3-4, as they reportedly were contemplating.
Williams has never been a defensive coordinator, and Frazier will take more of a hands-on approach to the defense -- at least initially -- while Williams grows into the role. Frazier stopped short of saying who would call the defensive signals in Week 1, but he made clear he doesn't want to be a head coach/defensive coordinator. "Some guys can do that," Frazier said. "I don't think I can. But I do want to be involved early."
In a situation that is unusual, to say the least, Frazier said that former defensive coordinator Fred Pagac has agreed to return to coach linebackers along with current linebackers coach Mike Singletary. Frazier was not specific about roles or titles, but said that both Pagac and Singletary would be a part of daily linebacker meetings. I couldn't begin to explain how that will work. The Vikings are a 4-3 defense, but in nickel they play only two linebackers. Do they need two full-time veteran coaches? Asked how they would split duties, Frazier cited the need for someone to focus on sub packages.
Frazier used the Chicago Bears' 2010 defensive shuffle two years ago as a reference point, when coordinator Bob Babich was returned to his role as linebackers coach and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli took over for Babich as coordinator. "I've seen it work before in Chicago," Frazier said. "Between Babich, Rod and [coach Lovie Smith], they made it work. As long as you have the right people, it can work. … After sitting down and talking with the guys about what I was thinking and hearing their feedback, that assured me it could work."
The Bears analogy doesn't totally work. If Pagac is in the Babich role, moving from coordinator back to linebackers coach, then how does that account for Singletary? I have to assume Pagac is the primary linebackers coach, with Singletary serving in some kind of less-defined role that allows him to remain on staff as a trusted adviser to Frazier, a longtime friend.
As presumed, defensive backs coach Joe Woods will remain in his current role. Except for a few quality control assignments, the Vikings' defensive staff is now set.