December 24, 2013 10:26:50 AM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Leslie Frazier looked glum. His voice sounded softer than usual.
The Minnesota Vikings coach didn't acknowledge any worry about his job status, though, at his regular Monday news conference following the team's most lopsided loss of the season. One game remains this year. Naturally, all Frazier wanted to talk about was winning it.
He said neither he nor his agent has spoken with the organization about his future.
Asked how he's been able over the past month to block out rumors and speculation he'll soon be fired, Frazier said he's simply tried to set a good example.
"For our players, it's important that they focus on the task," said Frazier, who is from Columbus. "That's what I'm asking them to do, and I need to do the same thing. It's very, very important if you want to have a chance to win these games down the stretch that I stay focused on what's involved with leading our team, and I want them to follow. It's important I handle it the right way."
Until the 42-14 defeat Sunday at Cincinnati, the Vikings were finishing strong, despite myriad injuries leaving them depleted at several positions, and in light of their elimination from playoff contention. They're 3-3-1 in the second half of the season, with a game this weekend against Detroit.
That might not be enough for Frazier to stay. He has one year left on his contract, but the Vikings (4-10-1) will finish with at least 10 losses for the second time in three full seasons with him in charge. Fair or not, in the ultra-competitive NFL, that's a standard formula for a coach firing.
The Vikings went 3-13 in 2011 and are 20-33-1 under Frazier, including six games as the 2010 interim coach after Brad Childress was replaced, and one defeat in the playoffs after the 10-6 finish in 2012.
Adrian Peterson loudly voiced his support for Frazier after the game Sunday.
"I'm definitely not an individual that's looking for dramatic change like that. It will hurt if he leaves," Peterson said.
The star running back took his endorsement one step further by promising to lobby ownership and the front office for keeping Frazier around.
"I'm going to give my input and see what they have to say," Peterson said.
Linebacker Chad Greenway has been another of Frazier's biggest fans.
"We realize that there is one week left in the fight. We need to get a win at home to put the Metrodome to sleep. We have to bring our best game," Greenway said.
Asked Monday what Peterson's commendation meant to him, Frazier flashed a faint smile before steering his answer away from the topic of his employment and on to the value Peterson has for the franchise. After the game Sunday was as close as Frazier has come all season to publicly acknowledging his uncertain status.
"We'll have some internal discussion, but I've got one more game in this season," he said Sunday. "I'm looking forward to hopefully coaching that final game and getting us a win at Mall of America Field as we close out the dome."
The Metrodome, now named after the sponsoring shopping center, will be torn down beginning next month. The answer to the trivia question about who the last Vikings starting quarterback at the Teflon-topped stadium was? Matt Cassel. He'll take the final turn on the 2013 carousel, with Christian Ponder the backup and Josh Freeman third.
"He picked up things well and worked hard in practice," Frazier said of Freeman. "He's still doing those things: picking up the offense, working hard, spending time with coaches doing all the things he needs to do."
Peterson's status isn't clear. He said after the game Sunday he wasn't himself, playing on the sprained right foot that kept him out the week before.
"We always just want to do the right thing by him when it comes to playing the game of football," Frazier said. "He means so much to our franchise and our organization, so you've just got to be wise when we're talking about how to use him."