I like the Minnesota Vikings decision to extend head coach Leslie Frazier's contract. I also like the decision to only extend it to 2014 by exercising another option year in the contract.
Now for my rationale ....
For starters, it's hard to argue this isn't deserved. Frazier and his coaching staff did a hell of job in 2012. They were able to get the club off to a quick start - something a young Vikings team needed to do with a tough second half schedule ahead of them. And when they slumped mid-year - capped by a disheartening loss to the Packers in Green Bay that put them at 6-6 - Frazier didn't panic, kept preaching the boring "one game at a time" mantra (it worked) and saw his key assistants, defensive coordinator Alan Williams and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, craft some solid gameplans as the Vikes won four straight games to make the playoffs.
Along the way, Frazier showed improvement on when to challenge bad calls by the refs and was much more decisive in making critical game decisions than he was in 2011. The Vikings also beat the Bears and Packers for the first time in Frazier's tenure and swept the Lions, showing his teams could beat the divisional rivals they play six times a year. The team even won three road games! Other than leading the Vikings to a deep playoff run that resulted in a Super Bowl victory, I'm not sure what more Frazier could have done in 2012 to get another year added to his contract from owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.
A few other observations about Leslie Frazier:
1. I've never seen a Leslie Frazier team not play hard for him - even during the 3-13 mess of 2011. My sense is that the Viking players respect Frazier as a person and respect him as a coach. Maybe that doesn't help teams win games in the NFL. But I think it's important for a head coach to have that respect. He also doesn't call out players publicly - something the guy he replaced, Brad Childress, had a bad habit of doing. Players generally don't like being called out by the head coach. That's another reason why I think they respect Frazier and follow him. That is important ammo to have in the locker room when things go bad in the NFL.
2. In 2011 - Frazier's first year as the full-time head coach - he had some control and say in personnel matters. It's been written that it was Frazier who pushed to bring Donovan McNabb to Minnesota - a move that didn't work out for the Vikings or McNabb. There is also a theory out there that Frazier, believing the Vikings could still compete for a playoff spot with an aging roster (Steve Hutchinson, E.J. Henderson, Cedric Griffin, Anthony Herrera, etc.), resisted in starting the process of rebuilding that roster in 2011, something Spielman wanted to do. Well, Spielman was promoted to GM at the end of the 2011 season, and Frazier doesn't have control over personnel decisions anymore. He can do what he does best - coach - and leave the player procurement to Spielman. So far, so good on that front.
3. It seems a fair amount of Vikings fans don't like Frazier because he doesn't show any fire on the sideline. I guess if you want your head coach to provide some entertainment value during games, then it's important to have a fiery guy running the show. I think it's irrelevant to winning and losing football games, however. Jim Harbaugh often acts like a lunatic on the sideline - and he's been hugely successful. Bud Grant was probably even more stoic than Frazier during his time with the Vikings - and he was hugely successful. Yelling and screaming during games will not make Frazier a better coach or the Vikings a better football team. If this is your main criticism of Frazier, please beat it.
Now about that "extension," which only runs to 2014. I think this is a wise move by the Wilf's and it's a case of learning from your mistakes That mistake happened midway through the 2009 season, when the Wilf's - high on purple Koolaid thanks to an 8-1 start to the season - extended Childress to 2013. A year later, he was fired. As good a job as Frazier did in 2012, it is only one season. He's still got to prove he can consistently have the Vikings compete for a playoff spot. And by locking up Frazier until 2014, that seems like a reasonable amount of time for Spielman and the Wilfs to determine if Frazier is the next Grant or Dennis Green or if he's the next Childress or Mike Tice.