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Monday, November 22, 2010
First decision a smart one for Frazier

By Kevin Seifert

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The first question posed to Leslie Frazier on Monday was an obvious one.

So was the answer.

Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier
Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier said Brett Favre would remain the starting quarterback.
And that's why Frazier gets a thumbs-up on his first day as the Minnesota Vikings' interim head coach.

In the hours leading up to Frazier's news conference, we heard any number of people suggest that Frazier needed to make the bold -- i.e., stupid but compelling -- decision to bench quarterback Brett Favre and give backup Tarvaris Jackson a chance to energize the 3-7 team.

I'm not totally sure what we'll get from Frazier as a head coach. But if he stays true to Leslie Frazier the assistant coach, you won't see many quick-fix gimmicks or radical new strategies. You'll find him to be reasonable, practical and expedient -- knowing full well that his career-long hope of earning a permanent head-coaching job rests on the next six games in Minnesota.

So as you might expect, Frazier answered quickly when asked who his quarterback will be.

"Brett Favre," he said. "There's no hesitation for me in that regard. Brett's a tremendous quarterback. He's been a leader of our football team in the year and a half that he's been with us. There are some things that we have to do as a group to help support Brett, and that will be my message to our football team."

Favre's 22 turnovers have played a bigger role in the Vikings' 3-7 record than any single on-field factor. And despite Favre's well-choreographed reluctance to commit to the rest of the season, I think most reasonable football people would tell you he gives the Vikings a better chance to win than Jackson would. I would have been worried for Frazier if he thought anything else.

This is no time to be cute, even if Frazier were compelled to do so. Owner Zygi Wilf made clear that his commitment to Frazier is limited at best.

"He has our full support right now," Wilf said, "and as I communicated, we want to have a strong finish to the season."

Frazier has interviewed for seven head-coaching jobs over the past three years, and in many ways he has lucked into a more fortuitous situation than if he had been hired elsewhere. Usually when a team undergoes a coaching change, the cupboard is bare and the mess is irreparable in the short term. In Minnesota, as we've noted many times, Frazier has a talented roster on both sides of the ball. It's hard to imagine the Vikings emerging as playoff contenders, but they certainly have the talent to make some noise over the final months of the season.

Frazier's job will be to channel that talent beyond the infighting and bickering that consumed players and coaches during Sunday's 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. That process started with recommitting to Favre -- and continued with a fair restraint on him.

"Brett, like all of our players, has to play within the scheme of our defense, our offense and our special teams," Frazier said. "One of the things that we talked to our players about. ... is that no individual, regardless of names or accolades, is bigger than our team. I think all our guys understand that and all they want to do is be part of a successful group."

I don't know how this is going to work out. There are a lot of hurt feelings and plenty of damage already within this organization. But Monday told us this much: Leslie Frazier at least has a chance.