Leslie Frazier: Another Black Coach Axed

Leslie Frazier deserved more time in Minnesota.

For those who are familiar with what we do at FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW, you know Frazier has been a guest on the show, twice. He is an Alcorn State graduate. I have been following him since interviewing him in Miami during the week of Super Bowl XLI. At that time he was the defensive backs coach for the Colts under head coach Tony Dungy.

I know this may be perceived as biased, but I am going to be as unbiased as I can.

Frazier was 21-32-1 in three and a half seasons. He took over as interim head coach in 2010 when Brad Childress was fired with six games remaining and was named head coach following the season. Frazier had one year remaining on his contract. The Vikings had losing seasons in 2011 and this year. They finished 10-6 in 2012 and made the playoffs.

Those are the facts.

The most puzzling thing here is that the Vikings let him go with one year remaining on his contract. Three years is not enough of a sampling. The Vikings didn’t live up to their part of the agreement in totality. Yes, Frazier will get his money, but you get the sense with him, it’s not about the money.

In 2011, the Vikings moved up to draft quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall when he was projected as a second round or lower pick. After throwing Ponder into the fire in 2011 and with him somewhat responding, he had a pretty solid second year throwing for close to 3,000 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

This year was a disaster and not just because of injuries; Ponder was just bad. Ponder was not Frazier’s pick yet his poor play was one of the reasons Frazier was let go.

Frazier deserved the chance to see it through. Yes, 2013 was bad. 5-10-1 is hard to excuse. But three of the Vikings wins were against teams that were in playoff contention up until the last week of the season, including a resounding 48-30 victory over NFC East champion Philadelphia. The tie was against division rival and NFC North champion Green Bay. The Vikings started the season 1-7. They finished the season 4-3-1 including a 14-13 victory over division rival Detroit on Sunday. Four of their losses this season were by seven points or less.

Frazier deserved to be a head coach a long time ago. He had some legitimate interviews. He also had some interviews with teams to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule. Minnesota gave him the shot that he deserved a long time ago. Why didn’t they let him finish it out?

On a bit of side note, and because another brother has lost his job as an NFL head coach, the League’s problem with the hiring of minority coaches continues. Had Frazier been White, would the trigger have been pulled so quickly?

I think back to Raheem Morris, and like Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, a young coach who benefited from the Rooney Rule. Morris’ situation was very similar to Frazier’s. Just three wins the first year, a 10-win season in year two that in many years would have meant the playoffs. The team fell to 4-12 in year three and Morris was shown the door.

The Colts, while successful these last two years, fired Jim Caldwell, who succeeded Tony Dungy, after three years. Caldwell led the Colts to a Super Bowl appearance the first year and the playoffs the next. Without Peyton Manning the Colts went 2-14 in 2011 and Caldwell was given his walking papers.

The Bears fired Lovie Smith last season after going 10-6. They were 8-8 this season.

Frazier, Tomlin, Caldwell, and Smith are part of the Dungy coaching tree.

I realize the dynamic is different and each organization does what it feels is in its best interest, which may be the whole point of this, but Jets coach Rex Ryan finished 8-8 this year and with a year remaining on his contract, in a tumultuous season, not only keeps his job but there is talk of extending his contract by one year. Since leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC championship games his first two seasons, the Jets are 22-26 under Ryan, the last three with no playoff appearances.

Frazier’s firing makes a total of five black coaches fired in the last three years, of which none have been hired in that time frame. There are currently only two black head coaches in Tomlin and Marvin Lewis of the Bengals. Yet the League is 65% Black.

Black coaches shouldn’t be treated differently because they’re black if the situation warrants it, but there are some disparages and the field is not level.

There are currently five head coaching vacancies. Frazier, whether this year or in the very near future, deserves another shot.


You can follow Donal on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow.

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