Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frazier's Roller-Coaster Ride Continues

It wasn't the best defense in the NFL that Minnesota Vikings' rookie quarterback Joe Webb faced on Tuesday night, but it was considered good enough with its various blitz schemes to make the Philadelphia Eagles 14-point favorites at Lincoln Field. That Webb and the Vikings' defense left the field a ten-point victor, despite having a touchdown called back, thus makes a case not only for Webb as a starting quarterback, but also for the mercurially up-and-down short run of current interim Vikings' head coach Leslie Frazier.

Three weeks ago, less than two weeks after assuming the head coaching duties of the Vikings in the wake of Brad Childress' overdue dismissal, Frazier appeared all but certain to take over the permanent head coaching duties for the Vikings. That certainty was built around Frazier's appealing persona, a road victory over Washington that snapped a nine-game road losing streak for the Vikings, and a home blow-out victory over the Buffalo Bills, despite the loss of quarterback Brett Favre on the opening drive of the game.

Two weeks and two blowout losses later, Frazier looked like the mop-up coach destined either to return to the NFL with some other team as a specialist coach or, as for more of a long-shot, to return to a blown-up, youth-laden Vikings' team.

After last night's surprising road victory over the Eagles, Frazier has won a new lease on the prospect of returning to Minnesota next year to coach a team with its veteran core largely intact. For that stunning change of events, Frazier may well have himself primarily to thank.

The Vikings' victory over the Eagles last night came on the strength of four on-field performances--that of the defense, generally speaking, Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, and Webb. As important as, if not more important than the performance of players on the field, however, was the decision-making of Frazier. Where Childress almost certainly would have opted to start anyone other than Webb, even if it meant starting a quarterback who had not played in the league for three years, Frazier went with Webb. Where Childress almost certainly would have continued with his determination not to use Peterson on screen plays, Frazier employed Peterson in that capacity. And where Childress almost certainly would have limited Harvin's role in favor of more passes to check-down specialists Toby Gerhart, Jim Kleinsasser, and Naufahu Tahi, Frazier stuck with the hot player and allowed Webb to find his targets and move out of the pocket in so doing.

On Tuesday night, Vikings' fans were offered a glimpse of a quarterback with the makings of a legitimate NFL starter. They were also offered a glimpse of what the Vikings' talent looks like when used properly and when motivated to play. There has never been a question of Frazier's willingness to move outside the tiny box in which Childress operated, the question, following two brutal blowout losses, was whether Frazier could lead a team laced with veterans and young players when there was nothing for which to play. Frazier answered that question on Tuesday, in spite of a seemingly endless nightmare of scheduling and injury issues. A win against Detroit on Sunday thus might make possible what last week seemed improbable--the annointment of Frazier as the Vikings' permanent head coach.

Up Next: Webb Worth Consideration in 2011. Plus, Vikings' performance makes case for bringing back core of team.

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