|With fiery Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Vikings turn to quiet Frazier to run defense|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 30 July 2007 14:28|
No one is asking the linebackers to ``blow up a fullback today please'' or hollering ``Yes Sirrrrr!'' when a defensive back intercepts a pass.
Mike Tomlin did all that and more in one season as a defensive coordinator here before his surprising move to Pittsburgh as head coach. The beloved assistant, just 35 years old, endeared himself to players with an infectious enthusiasm and a straight-forward, no-nonsense method of communication.
So Vikings coach Brad Childress knew Tomlin's replacement had to be someone with a serious resume. He turned to Leslie Frazier, a former cornerback on the vaunted '85 Bears defense and an assistant with the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts last season.
From a personality standpoint, Frazier and Tomlin couldn't be more different. Tomlin is all fire and brimstone, his voice audible from all corners.
Frazier likes to hang back on the sideline, observe and analyze. He rarely raises his voice above conversation volume, a style similar to the laid back Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.
``Completely different personalities,'' Childress said, before describing Frazier. ``Strong. Silent. Steady. I think those are probably some of the things that Tony saw in him. Great body of experience.''
What captures most of his players' attention are his dance moves. Frazier was a member of that Super Bowl Shufflin' Bears defense that broke records and crushed offensive spirits back in 1985.
``He played on one of the best defenses that ever played this game with the Bears in '85, so we're definitely trying to soak up as much information as he passes on to us,'' Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
First in Chicago as a player, and then in Philadelphia as an assistant, Frazier learned defense under two of the masters - Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson. Both men covet putting pressure on the quarterback, which is Frazier's top priority with a team that struggled to do that last season.
``That was his philosophy,'' Frazier said of Ryan. ``A lot of times it was bringing one more than they could block, whether it was in the run game or the pass game. It was effective and so working with Jim really suited my desires and what I felt comfortable with.''
Frazier left the Eagles in 2003 to run the defense under Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, but Lewis' background as a defensive guru often put Frazier in the back seat.
That won't be a problem in Minnesota. Childress is an offensive coach and likes to give his defensive coordinator complete autonomy to implement his system.
``I still believe you hire good people and let them do their job. That's why I hired Mike,'' Childress said. ``Now, would I have thought that he would leave after one year for the job he got? You'd say, 'No that doesn't happen to a first-time coordinator to become a head coach.'
``But obviously he's a good coach and he did a good job. You oversee that. You don't micromanage that.''
Frazier has appreciated the freedom Childress has granted him.
``He has been great,'' Frazier said. ``It is really on myself and the other assistants on defense to make it work along with the players.
``We have to run things by him to a point because he is the head coach, but he has taken the handcuffs off and he's letting us do what we want to do to try to get our defense to be a championship defense.''
Personality differences aside, Tomlin and Frazier have much more in common when it comes to schematics. Both prefer the ``Tampa 2'' system made famous by Dungy when he was with the Bucanneers, and in that regard, the transition has been a smooth one for the players.
``It worked out good for us,'' Winfield said.
Once the players get used to not seeing their leader coaching ``with his hair on fire'' - one of Tomlin's favorite phrases to describe enthusiasm and effort - it should be smooth sailing for a talented group.
``Maybe a little less intense as far as charismatic and energy on the field, but he's every bit into the system, into the scheme, into what we're doing,'' linebacker Ben Leber said. ``Just because that's what his personality is doesn't mean his expectations are any less.''