Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Hey guys, I’m sure you’re all aware that Alan Williams is going to be our new Defensive Coordinator and I’m really excited about Alan joining our staff and really bringing some new energy to what we’re trying to get accomplished and also, we hired Brendan Daly to coach our defensive line. Brendan was most recently with the Rams. I’m sure you remember he was with us about three years ago and he’s done a great job over these last three years of really growing as a defensive line coach, so really looking forward to having those guys on our staff.
Q: As you were looking at the coaching movement around the League, were you getting nervous about how long it was taking you to get somebody to take the job?
A: You’re right. There was a lot of movement and there still is movement going on and the only things I was a little concerned with was when they started naming head coaches, the list of candidates would really shrink and we’re fortunate that Alan was available and that the Colts let us interview him. There was a time where I wasn’t sure if they would even let us interview him because I know he was a candidate in some other places as well. Yeah, I was a little nervous that we might not be able to get the guy that we wanted.
Q: In the two years that you spent with Alan in Indianapolis, what left an impression on you and what impresses you about him now?
A: The thing that really stuck out to me was how good of a teacher he was and how well he communicated and related to the players. Over the last few years, there were things that he did there that really helped their defense and helped their team there in Indianapolis. Excellent teacher, very good communicator, has very good command with the players and he’ll be able to bring that up here to Minnesota.
Q: Give us your rationale on what you’ve done with Fred Pagac, Mike Singletary, and Karl Dunbar.
A: Fred is an outstanding coach and I’m just thrilled that he was willing to accept this role to work with our linebackers along with Mike Singletary. Two guys who I have a great deal of respect for as coaches in their respective roles and the fact that they’re both going to be in that role with our linebackers, I’m believing we’re going to have the best linebacker corps in the National Football League. Thrilled that Fred will accept this role and it really took a lot when he decided to do that. As far as Karl is concerned, Karl did a great job for us a number of years here for us working with our defensive line and I wish him nothing but the best. I have the utmost respect for Karl Dunbar.
Q: Based on Alan’s experience in the Tampa 2 defense, is it safe to say you will stick with that philosophy and what does that mean moving forward?
A: We are going to keep a lot of the same principles in place. There are things that the Colts did that are a little bit different than what we do when Alan and I were talking about, this position that I would like to incorporate down here and really try to improve on some things that we’ve done. He will brings some fresh ideas, a new train of thought with him. I did think a little bit about some other options that were available but after evaluating our season and also looking at our history here on defense, I didn’t want to get too far away from the things that have helped us be a successful defense over the years.
Q: Did you and Fred have a communication issue? Why the change at the head of it (defense) for you personally?
A: I don’t know if it was any one thing. It just felt like it was the direction we needed to go to hopefully improve here in 2012. We have to improve, on the defensive side as well as the offense. We have to improve as a team. This is a move that hopefully will help us to improve and that’s what it was based on.
Q: Can you clarify the status of the other defensive assistants?
A: Joe Woods will coach the secondary this next season. Fred and Mike will work with our linebackers. Brendan Daly is going to coach our defensive line. Matt Sheldon is not under contract so we’re trying to work through some things to determine what’s going to happen with him. Jeff Imamura, just trying to determine what role he will play but he’ll be on our staff in 2012 but he will remain in a quality control position but we’re exploring some of the things we might be able to do with Jeff.
Q: Do you not expect any changes on offense at this point?
A: We’ve gotten our staff settled on offense, defense, and special teams. Everybody is looking forward to going down to the Senior Bowl and starting the 2012 season as far as evaluating players and really getting started on rebuilding our roster and reshaping our roster. I think everybody is kind of looking forward to getting together and really finding us some players for 2012.
Q: When did you come to the determination that you were comfortable with keeping two linebackers coaches and did you have any concerns with it?
A: After sitting down and talking with the guys about what I was thinking and just hearing their feedback, that assured me that it could work. You’re exactly right, if you don’t have the right kind of people, it can be kind of a dicey situation but the fact that we have good people that I’ve worked with before, I thought about the situation in Chicago when (Bob) Babich stepped back and Rod Marinelli came in with Lovie (Smith) and made it work and I’ve seen some other situations around the League where it works I think, as long as you have the right people in the room and I think we do.
Q: With the trouble in the secondary last season, how much did you focus on bringing somebody in with experience with defensive backs?
A: Alan’s background in the secondary is an added plus, there’s no question about it. I think one of the things that will help our secondary is our doing a good job of evaluating along with drafting players that play in the secondary in this draft and if we can do some things to help ourselves in the Draft, or NFL free agency, I think our secondary will improve.
Q: Could you give us a breakdown of how it will work in terms of day to day coaching of the linebackers? Are they going to split it down the middle?
A: The way things are now in our League, you’re in so many sub situations where you’re in nickel or dime and sometimes in base. It’s almost like what happens sometimes in the secondary with guys becoming specialized, whether they’re in the nickel package or whether they’re in the base package. Being able to coach the base package or just the packages in our situation, some of the three-down looks that we’ve seen, I think having the people that we’ll have on our defense working with our linebackers should enhance what we’re trying to do with some of the packages that we’re going to try and throw at people. I think it’s going to be a win-win for us.
Q: What types of things did you try to sell Alan on why this would be a good job to take?
A: I think one of the things that was a selling point was he looked at our tape prior to coming up here to interview and he realized that, as difficult as this season was, there still are some pieces in place for this to be a good defense and I know from talking with him, that really piqued his interest and the fact that one of the things I want to be able to do in 2012, one I mentioned to him is I really want to have a hand in what we’re doing early on to assist him in what we’re trying to get done and where I want our defense to go and the fact that we have a prior relationship made a difference in his deciding that he wanted to accept this role. But the fact that we have some pieces with
Q: Do you think you were too hands-off with Fred Pagac earlier in the season?
A: I don’t know. I just know that in 2012, as we’re putting this together, I really want to be involved in what we’re doing and how we’re planning things. I really want to make sure we’re headed in the right direction and having an offseason will help in that way. I don’t want to feel as if I have to be involved with offense or defense or special teams, although I still will be involved, but not to the degree that I was earlier in 2011. I really want to make sure we’re headed in the right direction on the defensive side.
Q: Is your anticipation that Alan will handle 100 percent of the defensive play calls?
A: Like I said a moment ago, early on I really want to be involved with what we’re doing and as we get through OTAs and minicamps, I’ll make a determination on what direction we want to go but I have a good feel initially for how I want to do it and having Alan here, somebody I know, who thinks the same way that I think and really has an idea of what I’m looking for, that’s going to be a big plus.
Q: Do you believe not having OTAs or minicamps last offseason infringed on Fred’s ability to carry through with what you wanted and how important is it now to get the coaches you want in place so you can all be on the same page?
A: Going to the Senior Bowl is really big for us, especially with some of the changes that were made on our staff and I told some of our guys that this week that it’s really a start for us as far as gelling as a staff and beginning to put things in place prior to the OTAs and the minicamps as a staff. I think it’s going to be a big plus for us, a big advantage in that way. Not only do we get a chance to look at the players and visit with them and spend more time with them than we would if we were outsiders. Having this whole offseason together I have to believe is going to be a tremendous benefit to all of us, our entire staff and squad as well. Not that that’s an excuse for us not having more wins a season ago, but I have to believe it will be a plus for us.
Q: What are Brendan Daly’s strengths in your eyes and what is the value in the familiarity that he has with several of the guys he’ll coach right away?
A: With the energy and the enthusiasm that he coaches with and the fact that he is an excellent teacher of the fundamentals that we’re looking for on our defensive line, and he is such a technician that it should really help us. We played good football up front for a number of years and what he did in St. Louis with Chris Long and some of their young players has really impressed me, that he did some good things there and then the familiarity with our work and what we’re expecting, both factors played a role in determining whether or not he’d be our defensive line coach.
Q: What about 2011 prompted you to want to take over the defense?
A: I don’t want to say I want to take it over now. I don’t want to do that. I don’t think it will serve me very well to get myself to the point where I can’t oversee some of the things I need to see on our team. We are an evolving football team. We really have to do some serious things with our roster in order to get back in the mix in our division and in our conference. I don’t want to get immersed to the point where I’m the defensive coordinator slash head coach. Some people can do that but I don’t think I can. I don’t want to go in that direction. I do want to take the lead on some things early on and really set the tone on how I want things done and I think that’s important after what we experienced this past season.
Q: What role did Rick Spielman play as you went through this process of looking for a coordinator?
A: He was a sounding board for me as we talked with different people about particular candidates around the League and he was a great resource as we gathered information on different individuals we were considering. Just having him there to communicate with and bounce ideas off of and to hear some of his feedback was very important in this process.
Q: Did you ever offer the job to Mel Tucker or anybody else?
A: I talked with Mel and a few other candidates about working here and what it would take to work here and at the end of the day, he felt like, for him, the best situation for him was to remain in Jacksonville and not move his family. I did get to the point where I didn’t want to do anything with any of the candidates until they made a decision about what was best for them. It was important that I went through this process to just try to determine what was the best fit for us. I think things really worked out the way they should. Alan is going to be a great fit for what we’re trying to get done.
Q: Did you talk to Steve Spagnuolo about the job at all?
A: Steve and I, we talked all throughout the season, at the end of the season and after the season about a lot of things. I just knew that after the season he was going through a lot, just trying to ascertain about what his future was. We didn’t really get to the point where we were talking about working here in Minnesota but just trying to help him work through some of the feelings he had after the Rams.
Q: What is your explanation on why it was time to cut ties with Karl Dunbar?
A: There was no one thing. As I mentioned earlier, Karl did a great job up here. It’s difficult when you make these decisions. This has not been easy at all and I know it hasn’t been easy for guys to work through. We’ve made a decision. I think Brendan Daly is going to do a great job for us. I think he’ll develop a great rapport with our defensive line and we’re looking forward to watching him work, watching him help our defensive continue to work towards improvement.
Q: Did you have Brendan in mind before parting ways with Karl Dunbar?
A: I really didn’t think about a lot of these things in great detail until our season was over. I was still trying to evaluate certain things as the year went on with more so our personnel and what we were doing but after the season was over, I had to take a hard look at a lot of things and made a decision and as I mentioned, I’m looking forward to watching Brendan work with our players this offseason and into the regular season.
Q: What’s the most valuable part of coaching at the Senior Bowl?
A: The fact that we get a chance to work hands-on with the players, we get to talk with them, spend time with them, eat in the cafeteria with them, talk about their lifestyle. It will be immeasurable, the time that we’ll be able to be around them and be able to evaluate these players because as you guys know, it’s tough to go wrong when you’re drafting with the third pick in the Draft. We have to hit on that but now when you get to rounds five, six and seven, those rounds are as important as that first round when you are trying to revamp your roster like we are. Being there at the Senior Bowl and working with these guys and consider this, we drafted five guys that played in the Senior Bowl a year ago. We drafted the MVP of the Senior Bowl a year ago, our quarterback. For us to be this up close and personal with these players should help us when we have 10 picks in this draft. We hope to hit on every one of them. That’s the goal, to hit on every one of them where they can be contributive to our team and that’s the situation that we’re in and then from a coaching standpoint, now we get a head start on developing the chemistry that’s going to be so necessary for us to improve this next season so I’m excited about the fact that we’ll be in meetings, we’ll be able to start developing some of the things we want to develop for 2012.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams
First of all I would like to thank the Wilf family for giving me the opportunity, along with Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier, for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to come up and be a part of, what I think, is one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. In my days in Indianapolis, Coach Tony Dungy used to talk about his time spent with the Vikings and all of his fond memories of the community, the fans, and the program. So at this time, to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings is a dream come true.
Q: As you were considering this position, what were the things that really appealed to you about this team?
A: The number one thing was the chance to work with Leslie Frazier again. I know you are all aware that we worked together in Indy and when Leslie came to Indianapolis we were able to win a championship there. It was another opportunity to work together, first of all, and then to win some more championships. In League circles, Minnesota is considered a very good team and they have always been top of the League in defense and anytime you get a chance to come in with a lot of the building blocks already in place, you have to jump at that.
Q: Coach Frazier talked about wanting to be hands-on with the defense, particularly early on and setting the tone, how do you expect that relationship to function?
A: We worked hand in hand together when we coached the secondary in Indianapolis, we are very familiar with one another’s philosophy in terms of defense, our terminology, and the way we coach is very similar. I only can see that as a positive that Leslie will be hands-on with the defense. He brings a wealth of experience, a wealth of knowledge; he is very easy to work with so I look forward to Leslie’s added involvement with the defense.
Q: Earlier Leslie had mentioned how important it was to get you in now as well as the rest of the staff so you can go to the Senior Bowl and bond, how important is it to you to make that trip and be with the rest of the crew and establish something before OTAs and mini camps.
A: I look at that as a positive also. The new staffs nowadays don’t get that chance to work together and gel, and become comfortable with one another and it’s almost a camp, so to speak, for the coaching staff. So under NFL rules we may get a little of a leg up on other coaching staffs to get a chance to work together.
Q: Where were you at in your thought process before Leslie called you, where were you looking into and how did this come to fruition in the last few days?
A: I wasn’t looking into anything; I was in a holding pattern. I was still under contract and I had a job with the Colts. I was just waiting and seeing what Coach Caldwell’s status was going to be.
Q: Many people have compared the coaching style of Tony Dungy and Leslie Frazier is there anything that appealed to you about that coaching style?
A: Both are very consistent in their approach to teaching. They are extremely good teachers, they are extremely effective communicators and again they are consistent in what they do. That is one thing that when you send a message and when you are coaching, whatever your philosophy may be that you are consistent in that message. Both have a great relationship with their players. The players in Indianapolis respected Leslie a great deal just like they did Tony Dungy. Any time a player respects their coach because they know that the coach can improve their skill and performance on the football field that is a major thing for the coach. The one thing Leslie could do well in Indianapolis was that he could take a young player and you would see a great deal of improvement from that player. Good coaches improve players and that’s what Leslie could do.
Q: With your experience with Leslie, do you bring in any philosophically different schemes that you have developed?
A: No, not really. I am very familiar with the Tampa 2 scheme, that’s what I cut my teeth under, when I was with Coach Dungy in Tampa Bay. When Leslie came to the Colts, the one thing that he did bring was a wealth of knowledge of the late Jim Johnson’s defense, so I have learned things too, like man coverage and blitz packages, that Leslie is familiar with. I would see us as very similar in our philosophy as well as the technique part of what we do.
Q: What will it be like working and overseeing Fred Pagac?
A: I think the media looks at that as a negative, but I have known Pagac through Mike Tomlin when they first got to Minnesota. Pagac brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. To those people who are not familiar with some of the assistant coaches in the NFL it is only a plus that Pagac is still on the staff. Also, for anyone who is not interested in winning, that may be a problem, but I assure you that Pagac wants to win, it’s first and foremost above egos, so it’s a plus that Pagac decided to stay with Minnesota.
Q: Do you know how you are going to split up the duties between him and Mike Singletary?
A: We are not sure yet, that is something that remains to be seen and that’s something that Leslie and I will talk about with Mike and Coach Pagac and we will come to a conclusion a little bit later and the neat thing is that we get to test it out at the Senior Bowl to see how we will work together and see how we will work together and gel. The neat thing also is that we don’t have to know right now.
Q: Leslie had mentioned that the situation only works with the personalities with the men involved like Pagac, like Mike Singletary, would it be different if you did not know these men, would you be comfortable if you did not know these men?
A: Well two things, I know Pagac, I know his reputation, and I know he is a man of high character, he likes to win, and I also know Leslie and I trust Leslie’s judgment. When I first came in Leslie said it was a situation that would work out. If Leslie tells me that I know his word is golden and his judgment is second to none. So, if he says that, I feel comfortable with that.
Q: When you look at the tape what can you see that you can do to help improve this defense, especially on the back end?
A: When you know what, you have jumped way ahead of me, you said ‘after you watched the tape’, I don’t think I have watched enough tape to make that discern just yet, if you give me a little bit of time I will answer that question in more specifics.
Q: What do you think you can bring, especially in your background, to help that second unit?
A: Sometimes the perception is, that when a team does not perform as well as the media should think, they tend to think that it should be blown up, that it should be wholesale changes, but I don’t believe that. I think that a lot of times, it’s a tackle here, an assignment there that allows you to be more successful. It’s a fine, fine line between being in the lower half and the top half of the NFL in terms of rankings, so with that I think we will pay attention to detail, I think we will start from the ground up, like it was a few years ago. With that I think you will see some dramatic changes in how we play and also how fast that we play.
Q: Leslie said that he was getting a little bit nervous as he got deeper into this process about getting the right guy in place for this job and that you had some other opportunities as well, where were you leaning as you were interviewing with the Vikings and entertaining that offer?
A: I’m not sure what opportunities Leslie was talking about, you will have to ask him about those, my job was just to sit tight and go from there, I’m not sure if Leslie had some inside information. Head coaches talk from time to time and so I’m not sure if my name was mentioned with any other opportunities, but at that time when Leslie came calling for me, I was the secondary coach and I had a job.
Q: In regards to player development, what do you consider your strengths in that department?
A: Really developing young players. As a secondary coach with Indianapolis, we drafted a lot of young DBs, so I would think what I do best is be able to develop a young player and have him at a winning level early in his career. When I say early, I mean in the first part of his career; his first year. I think that’s important when you are talking about a roster from top-bottom, that your veterans play like veterans and you’re ‘A’ players play ‘A’ football on a consistent basis, but also with the secondary, injuries are just a part of the ball game. What I did in Indianapolis is when a veteran was out, a young player could hold down the fort and play winning football until that veteran or starter came back. That would be what I think I bring to the table and what I do best.
Q: Do you get a two year contract?
A: I did, yes.
Q: Can you speak to your relationship with Mike Tomlin; I know that goes way back to the William & Mary days, any traits you may share with him as well?
A: Mike’s personality is a little bit different from mine, but one thing I think we do share is that we are fundamentalists. We are not going to try to trick you in terms of schemes; we are just going to be fundamentally sound. One thing that we got from Tony Dungy, which came through Chuck Knoll is to say champions are champions not because they, do the extraordinary things, but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else. That is what I think we will do, we are going to run, we are going to tackle, we are going to hit, we are going to play smart football, and we are going to play tough football better than our opponent. We are going to out-execute on Sunday and day in and day out better than our opponent.