MINNEAPOLIS -- If Lovie Smith was going to get a second chance as a head coach this offseason, it also represented a good opportunity for Leslie Frazier to land on his feet after the Minnesota Vikings fired him.
Smith and Frazier come from the same tree and same mold of Tony Dungy-inspired coaches: both are men of faith, both are devotees of the Tampa-2 defense Dungy popularized with the Buccaneers, and both have had to fight the perception that they're just too darn polite to be successful in the NFL.
ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinkas said Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who was Smith's defensive coordinator in Chicago, may become Smith's defensive coordinator. A league source said Frazier was in discussions to become Smith's defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay.
If Frazier does get a defensive coordinator job, he would have to address the perception that the Cover-2 is becoming an outdated scheme. The Tampa-2 scheme has been predicated on great personnel -- Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch in Tampa; Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders in Indianapolis; Brian Urlacher in Chicago -- and it showed cracks in Minnesota once three-technique tackle Kevin Williams slowed down, the Vikings' play slipped at middle linebacker and safety Harrison Smith got hurt this year. The Buccaneers have some pieces in place to run the scheme, between tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David, safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Darrelle Revis, but whether he works with Tampa in some capacity or heads elsewhere, Frazier would have to deal with concerns that his scheme has been solved.
If Frazier does land as a coordinator, he could also provide a rebound spot for some Vikings players and coaches likely to be looking for work. If defensive coordinator Alan Williams is fired in Minnesota, he would be a logical choice to rejoin Frazier as a defensive backs coach. Linebackers coach Mike Singletary could find the same job with Frazier somewhere else, and Vikings free agents-to-be, like Williams and Jared Allen, would become fits for Frazier's new defense.
For Frazier, though, a quick turnaround would have to feel good after the Vikings let him go. He seemed to have a sense of his fate on Sunday, when he offered a defense of his work in Minnesota and left hints that some of the Vikings' problems -- namely, their quarterback situation -- weren't his fault. General manager Rick Spielman refuted a few of Frazier's points in his own press conference on Monday, which fueled the idea that the two men might not have seen eye-to-eye or parted on the most amicable terms.
Frazier will be 55 next year and might not get another shot to be a head coach, but if he does land a coordinator job, Frazier would at least keep himself in the hunt for another shot. If he did land in Tampa, he'd also get a chance to work with a friend, move back to the warmer Gulf Coast climate he grew up with and work with a defense that, for its flaws, created the third-most turnovers in the league this season.
The Vikings are also scheduled to travel to Tampa Bay next season. If he does land on Smith's staff, Frazier could be waiting for them, with a chance to exact a little revenge on his old team.