If Bud Grant were coaching in today's NFL, he may not have become the most successful Vikings head coach in team history.
In Grant's first year coaching Minnesota – 1967 – the team went 3-8-3. That was actually a step back for the Vikings, who had finished 4-9-1 in 1966, a record that partly caused Grant's predecessor – Norm Van Brocklin – to resign.
But in Grant's second season, the Vikings started the season 3-1. And then the squad lost its way. The Vikings next three games, against the Saints, the Cowboys and the Bears, were all defeats. After a rookie season where Grant's Vikes only won three games, his team was now 3-4 midway through season #2 and looked like it was in freefall mode.
Faced with the same situation today, and I wonder if Grant would have made it to game #8. It's possible he would have been asked to see Zygi Wilf in his office at Winter Park, then relieved of the head coaching duties and replaced by some assistant. Coaches rarely have the luxury to lose for long in the modern NFL.
Such is the lot Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier faces as he enters his second year at the helm.
The Vikings are at a low ebb. Their 9-24 record the past two seasons is the franchise's worst two-year stretch since the 1961-1962 period (its first two years in the NFL) when the team went 5-22-1. What is particularly concerning is that its divisional rivals, the Packers, the Bears, even the Lions, have passed them by.
The fanbase is also growing weary. The Vikings haven't won two consecutive playoffs games since 1987. They haven't been to a Super Bowl since 1976. And as Viking fans know all too well, their team has yet to win a Super Bowl in its 51-year history.
Is Frazier the man to change that cursed legacy? The early results aren't inspiring much confidence – at least in me.
It's not just the fact Frazier was the head coach of a team that went 3-13 and tied the infamous 1984 Les Steckel-coached squad for most losses in Vikings history. There were other signs throughout the season, and after it, that indicate Frazier isn't up to the task.
1) He vastly overrated how good his team was during the 2011 offseason. He thought he had a potential playoff team. Everyone else thought the Vikings were a 6-10/7-9 team at best. Everyone else was right. Frazier was wrong.
2) He thought Donovan McNabb had something left, and reportedly won a personnel tug-of-war with the man who is now the Vikes general manager, Rick Spielman, to trade for him.
3) Frazier proved indecisive at times during games as his first full season as the head guy rolled along. He was sometimes unsure on whether to go for it on fourth down or kick field goals. He also wasn't always quick and decisive in making challenges.
4) He made a poor choice in choosing Fred Pagac as his full-time defensive coordinator. It was a move that caused dysfunction within the unit, with some players refusing to play the defences Pagac had called.
5) Finally, he showed himself to be somewhat of a pussy on coaching staff decisions, interviewing candidates to replace Pagac while the man was still employed as the Vikings defensive coordinator. This is poor form and is troubling because Frazier did the same thing with the offensive staff in 2011. It's not exactly a practise that is going to convince other coaches around the league that Frazier is a good guy to work for.
If there was anything good that could be said about Frazier's coaching performance in 2011, it was that most of the Viking players kept playing hard as the losses, injuries and chaos mounted.
We are now waiting to see what Frazier's grand plan is to improve the Vikings in 2012. One thing is already apparent, he's trying to manage expectations as his team begins a major rebuilding effort.
That's wise of Frazier, but it might be a year too late. The fans don't want to see a repeat of last year's 3-13 debacle. Neither does new GM Spielman or the ownership group headed up by Wilf and his brother Mark.
If the Vikings endure a three-game losing streak (or worse) early in 2012, Frazier will likely pay for it by hitting the unemployment lines.
Leslie Frazier is no Bud Grant. And it's not 1968 anymore.