Does Leslie Frazier Deserve a New Deal With Vikings?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IFebruary 14, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 16: Head coach Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the St. Louis Rams during the game at Edward Jones Dome on December 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Vikings won 36-22. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings got the best of both worlds when they exercised a previously unknown option on head coach Leslie Frazier for the 2014 season. 

While originally reported as a contract extension, the Vikings actually did little more than to buy themselves another year in deciding whether Frazier deserves a long-term deal to be the team's head coach. 

In theory, a contract extension requires more money and years. The Vikings simply agreed to enacting the final year in Frazier's original contract. 

Now, Minnesota can enter next season without a lame-duck head coach in the last year of his contact, but also without the monetary commitment that goes into extending the franchise's top man. 

Of course, the front office in Minnesota doesn't have to look far into the past to see how throwing years and money at a coach on a roll can backfire relatively quickly. 

In 2009, the Vikings extended the original five-year deal of former head coach Brad Childress two more years. At the time of the new deal, Minnesota was 9-1 and on its way to a 12-4 season with Brett Favre at quarterback.

That all went up into flames less than a year later.

Despite being under contract through 2013, Childress was canned midway through the 2010 season after the Vikings stumbled—in somewhat embarrassing fashion—to a 3-7 start. Frazier took over as interim head coach and has remained in that role ever since. 

The Childress backfire begs an obvious question: Should the Vikings have handed Frazier—a mild-mannered, well-respected coach—a true extension too? 

After all, Minnesota did improve by seven wins in 2012, going from 3-13 in 2011 to 10-6 last season. Thanks to a Week 17 win over the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings snuck into the postseason as one of the NFL's most unlikely playoff participants. 

Losing quarterback Christian Ponder before the NFC Wild Card game all but eliminated the Vikings a week later, but few would have expected Minnesota to take such a radical jump forward in 2012. In fact, I did not see a single publication that predicted a winning record for the Vikings last season, much less a playoff berth. 

While Adrian Peterson's unlikely recovery and subsequent 2,000-yard season was a big factor in that revival, Frazier certainly deserves a heap of credit too.

However, it appears Minnesota is remaining cautious with a new deal. For now. According to the Star Tribune, the Vikings have not opened up discussions with Frazier on a new deal. 

What's the rush? 

Frazier is still under contract for two more seasons. He has contract security through next year, leaving the Vikings a window of time to gather whatever they need to know on a new deal.

In the meantime, Frazier can continue building Minnesota back into a perennial power. With another strong offseason (few talk about the Minnesota drafting Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh last April), the Vikings should be expected to compete for the postseason again in 2013. 

If Frazier delivers another satisfactory season, then the Vikings can address his contract next spring. He'll have more than earned an extension in that scenario, and you'd have to assume the Vikings would be more than willing to lock him up with a long-term deal. 

But if Minnesota falls back into the middle of the pack, the Vikings might have to think long and hard about whether or not they want to extend him past 2014. Frazier could enter that season on the hot seat, much like he did in 2012. 

Remember, he is just 16-22 overall as the Vikings head coach. This isn't a Jim Harbaugh situation, where the coach comes in and the team immediately becomes a Super Bowl contender.

The Vikings are still building, and the front office has decided to cautiously oversee that process. By not overreacting now, Minnesota has protected itself at the head coach position through at least next season.

In the end, it's hard to blame a franchise still recovering from burns from putting its hand right back on the heat source. Frazier now has all of 2013 to prove—without a doubt—that he's worth a long-term deal with the Vikings.