The Minnesota Vikings announced Monday morning that Leslie Frazier will not return as head coach in 2014.
The Vikings (5-10-1) ended their season yesterday with a final game at the Metrodome and a 14-13 win over the Detroit Lions (7-9). As fans exited the Dome one last time, Frazier shared individual embraces with staff and players as reports emerged of his pending firing.
As he left Winter Park on Monday morning, Frazier made a U-turn to talk to Fox 9, ensuring he had one last chance to address the fans.
"Might be the last time I get a chance to say something to the fans," he said as he stepped out of his Jeep.
While he admitted he stepped into a difficult position as the Vikings' head coach, he stepped out with support from his team.
"Just thankful for the opportunity the Wilfs gave me," he said. "As you know, when I stepped into this role it was not a perfect situation. I think we've turned some things around, and hopefully it's a better situation for the next person that steps in this role."
Frazier has seen it all with the Vikings -- a trying 3-7 start as he was named interim head coach in 2010, to playoff contention just last year.
"So proud of our guys. I remember when I took over what it was like," Frazier said. "We were not viewed in the most positive light around the league and I think things are better now for the next guy that steps into this role. I think the culture is much better than it was and it's because of the men on our team that have really helped to get that turned around."
As per his conversation with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday, it was a quick yet cordial exchange.
"Just they want to get another head coach in here. That was it. Shook hands, thanked them for this opportunity and wished them the best," Frazier said.
Frazier agreed he was disappointed he couldn't finish the job, citing the Carolina Panthers' playoff berth this year after a trying 2012.
"I was hoping we'd get a chance to finish what we started. We were so close to where our guys have been battling, I thought if we fixed a couple things this season we'd be right back in the thick of things," Frazier said.
Ultimately, in one final message to fans on Monday morning, Frazier conveyed he was thankful for the support he received in Minnesota.
"I'm just thankful for the support that I've received for my time here both as a coordinator and a head coach. Going to Mankato and being around the fans in a personable way, and then being at the Dome yesterday when Mall of America Field, the last game was ever played. The fans have been very, very good to me, and I'm thankful for my time here in Minnesota, it's good."
Frazier joined the Vikings as interim head coach after Brad Childress was fired after a 3-7 start in 2010. Frazier was officially named head coach in Jan. 2011 -- the Vikings went 3-13. In Frazier's second full year, the team went 10-6 earning a spot in the playoffs and after that 2012 season, the Vikings opted to exercise their fourth-year team option to keep Frazier under contract through 2014 -- his final contract year cut short with Monday's announcement.
Frazier ended his tenure as head coach with a 21-33-1 record.
Rookie wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson said Frazier was a good man on and off the field.
"He's like a father. He'll sit and talk to you about your problems and off-the-field issues and everything, he'd sit down, he's a good man," Patterson said.
Frazier spoke with the team Monday morning about the news, Patterson told media.
"It was kind of hard hearing his speech. He just told us if we need anything just call him, we all still have his number. I'm going to do that in the off-season, I'm going to call him every chance I get."
"As players, we know that we could have done better and basically that's the cause of what happened," quarterback Christian Ponder said.
Many critics pointed to the quarterback carousel as a major gaffe this season. Frazier started three different quarterbacks this season: Christian Ponder started in nine games, Matt Cassel in six and Josh Freeman started in one disastrous matchup against the Giants. During Frazier's 55 games, he's started seven total quarterbacks:
1. Christian Ponder (35)
2. Matt Cassel (6)
3. Donovan McNabb (6)
4. Brett Favre (3)
5. Joe Webb (3)
6. Josh Freeman (1)
7. Tavaris Jackson (1)
"With my job, I didn't play well enough to keep the job and for us to win as many games as we should have, so it stinks knowing that that was a contribution to what happened," Ponder said.
STATEMENT FROM THE VIKINGS
"We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings," said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. "He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community. Making this change is difficult, but what we determined is best for the organization."
"Unfortunately, we did not achieve consistent success and did not achieve the progress we expected," said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. "We believe a coaching change is needed to help build a successful team moving forward."
SPIELMAN: NEW COACH INTERVIEWS IN 3-4 DAYS
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Monday the Vikings' decision to fire Frazier was the best way for the organization to take the next step.
"I've sliced it every way you can slice it," Spielman said about the decision-making process.
Regarding assistant coaches, all are under contract and will need written permission should they choose to move on to another team, but the Vikings will look at those potential requests on a case-by-case basis, Spielman said.
The search for a new head coach will begin immediately this afternoon, he said, and interviews are expected to be lined up over the next three or four days.
A new head coach will ideally be in place come the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25, giving the new head coach ample opportunities to interview the current assistant coaches and help curate the best staff possible. However, a new coach may not be in place by that date.