MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 2011
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Zygi Wilf: Thank you very much everyone for coming. This is a special day and a very good day for the Minnesota Vikings organization because today we are proud to announce that our new Head Coach is Leslie Frazier. He is a man who I have gotten to know over the last four years as defensive coordinator and even more important over the last six weeks and as you know how difficult the last six weeks have been for our team. Leslie led the way in getting our team motivated and working very hard to having our teammates on focus. He is a natural leader. He is respected by everybody. He has vast football experience, including championships both as a player and a coach. He has tremendous character and knowledge of our players. Most important, we were very fortunate to have him on our staff and that he is the best man for the job. I would like to introduce to you, our new Head Coach, Leslie Frazier.
Leslie Frazier: Thank you Zygi and Mark. In the four years that I have been here I have enjoyed the relationship that I have had with both Mark and Zygi and the entire Wilf family. They have been so supportive of me and my family. I just think back to this summer and my daughter who is a student in graduate school in New York. New city, new environment and I am wondering all along whether or not to let her go to graduate school in New York and while I’m there I get a chance to communicate with Mark and Zygi, and they told me, ‘Leslie, don’t worry. Anything she needs, we’re just a phone call away. She’s just like family.’ That meant a lot to me. I don’t know how many of you have kids, but that was special. That’s the only daughter I have and for them to say that; they have followed through on that. They have been very, very supportive and I am so thankful for them not only as our owners but as friends as well. This is a great day for me and my family. There have been many days where I have thought about one day becoming a head coach in the National Football League. The many places I have had a chance to talk to, to different owners and different organizations about their positions, for it to happen in Minnesota, this is a dream come true. I could have never foreseen my being in this role in Minnesota. I wanted to bring a championship here in a different capacity and to stand here today as the head football coach of the Minnesota Vikings, it’s a very humbling moment for me. Great organization. Passionate fans. The best fans in the National Football League as far as I am concerned. We won a lot of games in that Metrodome because of our fans. We have had some very good players, there’s no question about it, but our fan base is as passionate as any in the National Football League. So to now stand before you as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, my desire, my hunger to bring a world championship here has increased exponentially. That’s where my focus is and that’s what I want to see happen for our organization and for our fans. I am so very, very grateful for this opportunity and for the confidence that the Wilf family has entrusted in me. I am very, very grateful for it. I am proud of our players, the way they battled over these last six weeks, trying to make things happen, never giving up and always fighting through adversity and being as resilient as any group I have ever been around. Just so proud of them. This is special day for a lot of reasons. I couldn’t think of a situation I would rather be in than the one I am currently in. Sometimes in life you have dreams, you have aspirations and sometimes you achieve those and sometimes you fall short, but for me this is a dream come true. And to be doing it in a place where I am very familiar with the surroundings, very familiar with how we operate, you couldn’t ask for a better situation, which makes me believe that it’s only a matter of time before we deliver what our fans and this organization deserves, a World Championship. I believe that’s going to happen. I believe it in my heart. I am looking forward to getting started with the process, although in some ways I feel like the last six weeks has kind of begun to prepare me for what’s ahead. I have learned a lot in these last six weeks that I think is going to be a large part of the success that we will have in the future. I think we will be able to look back at these last six weeks and say, ‘You know what, that was the beginning of something special.’ Today is a special day, not only for me, but I really believe for our Vikings fans as well. Thank you Mark and Zygi, thank you.
Q: Was there a point when you began to question if this day would come, not just here but with a team at all?
A: There were moments where I never really doubted the day would come, I just wasn’t certain of where it would be. I always believed that if a door was shut, that was going to be the right place for me at the right moment. I just wasn’t certain when that would be. I always believed that it would happen. Whenever it would happen, it was going to be the perfect situation for me. This is the perfect situation for me. There is no doubt in my mind about it. The way our situation is set up here, I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Just my comfort level with how we do things, the players on our team, just knowing the inner-workings of how we do things, it gives me a head start on a lot of things as opposed to coming into a new organization right about now and having to learn that organization in the offseason, I get a jump-start because of my history here in Minnesota, so this is the perfect situation.
Q: When did you know that this was really going to happen here?
A: From the day that Zygi and Mark asked me to step into that role of interim head coach, some of the advice I got from different people was, ‘Don’t look at is as interim, look at it as if you are the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and approach it that way.’ And that’s the way I began to do it from day one. You are the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, make decisions based on that fact. From that point on, that’s the way I approached it, every single day never looking at it as an interim, but you are the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, make decisions based on that. So, from that point on that’s how I have done it and haven’t looked back.
Q: Could you enlighten us on the list of things you want to change?
A: Well one of the things that we will do soon after this press conference is sit down as an organization and I will get with our personnel people as well as our coaches and we will begin to go through some of the things that need to happen in order for us to get back to NFC North Champs and becoming NFC Champs along with winning a Super Bowl. So, we are going to get together and talk about that internally, but there are definitely some things we will have to move forward on to get back to where we were.
Q: How do you plan to address your assistant coaching situation?
A: We are going to get together with our staff and discuss everybody’s role. One of the things you want to be able to do in this role that I am in, is look at everything from top to bottom and try to figure out, what do we have to do to not be in the situation we ended up in this season? That’s one of the things I mentioned to our team, in our team meeting this morning. Every single guy, go back, do a little personal inventory, what do you have to do to help us be a successful team next season? I have got to be able to do the same thing, go back and look at our staff and just ascertain, what’s the best thing to do going forward? We will figure out what’s best. We’ve got a great staff. We’ve got a lot of good guys on our staff and we are going to try and make this work.
Q: What’s your early assessment on your quarterback situation going forward?
A: We are really pleased; I think we all are pleased with the way
Q: In your mind, is
A: In my mind in all of my conversations with him, with Brett sometimes you want to say, ‘Never is never.’
Q: Are you going to ask him to return at any point?
A: I cannot think of any circumstance where I would pick up the phone and say, ‘Brett, do you want to come back next season?’ I cannot think of any circumstance where that would occur, at all.
Q: Do you know what kind of offense that you would like to run?
A: I have been a part of the West Coast system here and other places as well. It’s a very good system, but the one thing I want to be able to do is, as mentioned before with our personnel, I want to do the same thing with our offense, with our defense, with our special teams, just to sit back and evaluate where we are right now and what’s best for us going forward based on the personnel that we have. I don’t want to be married to anything today. I want to open it up and just make sure we are doing the right thing that ensures we have a great chance of being successful next fall.
Q: How different will the locker room be next year?
A: It’ll be dramatically different. We do have a number of free agents, but that’s not any different than most teams in the National Football League. You go through an evolution almost every season it seems with roster changes. We’re not going to be a whole lot different than some teams although we have a high number of free agents. We’ve just got to make sure that we do the right things with acquiring the right people and then re-signing the guys that we want to re-sign. We’re not a whole lot different than some teams who have similar situations.
Q: How much input and control will you have over the roster?
A: One of the good things about our situation here, I get a chance to work with Rick Spielman, who I have a ton of respect for when it comes to personnel. In the last six weeks I’ve had a chance to work more closely with him. I just feel like with his knowledge of personnel around our league and also on the collegiate level, our personnel department is in great hands. My input will be more with our current roster, what he and I discuss what’s best for us as we go forward. I don’t foresee any hang-ups in that regard.
Q: Do you have final say on the 53-man roster?
A: One of the things that we talked about today and even last night was just making sure that we always communicate as a group regarding our 53-man roster. Just trusting that between myself and Rick that we’ll be able to settle on the right 53 for our football team. I have complete confidence that we can get that done. My confidence is bolstered by the relationship over the last six weeks. It was one thing working with him as a defensive coordinator but now working with him in the role that I’ve been in, I’ve seen the fact that we can work together, we can come to conclusions without harming our organization.
Q: How much does the lockout affect your plans going forward?
A: One of the things about the CBA being in flux right now is it changes everything for everybody. We’ll kind of have to wait and see what happens in that regard. We’ve got some plans and some ideas about what direction to go, but until we get some dates a lot of things are going to have to be on hold throughout our league.
Q: What is the identity that you want the Vikings to have?
A: I think you really began to see it take shape over these last six games. We really want to be able to run the football. We showed signs of being able to do that. Trying to be a dominant run team; I think our numbers were up dramatically in some of our games when we wanted to run the football. I think there were 30-plus runs two or three times in that six-game span. That’s what we want to be. We want to be able to feature the No. 1 running back in the National Football League,
Q: What have you learned from going through the past six weeks as the interim head coach?
A: As you know, these six weeks have been unprecedented in some ways, in particular the previous three weeks. So I’ve had to learn even more so about adversity than I thought. I thought I had a good handle on it, but there were some moments that you had to say, ‘Wow, I don’t think this has ever happened before.’ I think I learned a little bit more about resiliency in people, just being able to see how our players responded to some things and just the fact that you can believe in people and not have to always be on guard to whether or not they’re going to respond to adversity. Just seeing our players stay together in the midst of some trying situations and just continue to fight the way they fought, that was a learning lesson for me. As I was standing up in front of them and talking to them about how we have to approach every situation and I’m not always sure that they’re buying in. And they you watch them go out and perform and you go, ‘Yeah, they’re buying in. They’re listening.’ So for me, that was just another example of sticking with your message, believing in what you say, and if you’re honest and straightforward, people will follow.
Q: Is this team in a position that you can have a developing QB, or do you need a veteran QB to come in?
A: That’s one of the things that we’re going to have to determine in the weeks to come. Can we develop a young guy and get what we want? We don’t want to be a team that’s hovering around 4-12, 3-13. You don’t want to be that. At the same time, you don’t want to bring in a stop-gap guy and not develop a young guy for the future. We need to sit down and we’ve got to go through all that and make a determination whether or not to go with a veteran guy or do we need to bring in a young guy. I think we all want a young quarterback that we can develop and build our franchise around. That would be ideal, to find the next Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco. That would be ideal. We’ll sit down and discuss that.
Q: What are your thoughts on your two coordinator positions?
A: I really like our coaches as I mentioned before. I’m going to sit down with all of our coaches, probably tomorrow or the next day, and just discuss roles, talk about going forward; what’s the best way for us to approach things to give us the best chance to be successful. We’ll get that defined in the next couple days.
Q: Do you see your roster as a rebuilding project or do you feel like you can be a contender right away?
A: One of the things that gets me excited about my job here in Minnesota is that I don’t think we’re that far away. I really believe that there’s some things, that if we address them this offseason, we’re right back in the hunt for the NFC North Championship and the NFC Championship as well. I really believe that in my heart just knowing our roster, knowing our division and what you have to do to win in our division. I don’t think we’re depleted. Obviously there are some people that we want to be able to retain. Our roster’s going to turn over, there’s no question about it. But we’re not that far away.
Q: Did this team take some things for granted? Is there one or two things that you can point at that went wrong?
A: One of the things that we want to make sure depending on when the offseason begins is we want to approach the offseason the right way. But for us, there were a myriad of things that affected us this season. Not any one thing, but a number of things. I really believe that we need to attack the offseason the correct way, with our attendance, our involvement. That’s going to be important. Then the way we approach training camp as well. Those factors are going to be key to what happens in the regular season. For this 2010 season, I don’t think you can put your finger on one or two things and say that’s why this team didn’t achieve what most expected. There were just a lot of things that occurred.
Q: Does this team need to get younger?
A: We’re going to lose some key veterans for a number of different reasons, just like every team will this time of year. We’ve got some young talent in key areas and we want to continue to develop them. You’re never opposed to bringing in the right young guys at key positions. In our league, competition is everything and we want competition at every position. That’s what we’re going to aim for, and that may mean some young players competing with veterans for jobs.
Q: How important will it be for guys attending OTAs?
A: When I talked with our team this morning I talked about something similar to what you just mentioned. We really want to be all-inclusive. We want to be team-first. That means some guys are going to have to sacrifice some things this offseason to be a part of the team. I’m hoping that the things we talked about this morning, guys won’t renege on those. I think it’s important for our future success, but our offseason program, our offseason training is extremely important.
Q: How important were the things you did behind the scenes, opposed to what actually happened in some of the games?
A: I’ve got to think it factored in there some there with some of the things that we faced. Mark and Zygi could probably answer that better than I could, but you have to believe that some of the things that we dealt with and the way they were handled factored in to the decision. I credit our players, I credit some of the people that supported me during the things that we went through in our organization. For instance, trying to find out where we were going to play the week we played the Bears. We didn’t know right up until Thursday or Friday where we were going to play the game, but the people in our organization were working diligently behind the scenes to get things in place to let us know where we were going to play, and if it was going to be played in Minnesota. The same thing when we were in Philadelphia. I had great support from different people giving me information so I could make good decisions. A combination of the people that were surrounding me probably as much as anything helped me to stand where I am today.
Q: How much credibility with players do you gain from playing in the NFL?
A: It’s been huge. It gives me instant credibility with our players. They know I’ve sat in the same type of meetings that they have. I’ve played in the same conditions that they’ve played in. I’ve been through the ups and downs that they’ve faced. It gives me tremendous credibility. That being said, if you don’t follow through on certain things, you can lose your credibility [at the snap of a finger]. It definitely makes a difference.