PHOENIX -- In January, the Minnesota Vikings picked up a one-year option on coach Leslie Frazier's contract rather than negotiate a long-term extension. When the move was announced in February, Frazier didn't hide his surprise and disappointment before pledging to push forward into the 2013 season.
Here at the NFL owners meeting this week, I got a chance to speak with Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf about a number of topics, including Frazier's contract. I asked Wilf if he felt compelled to speak with Frazier or otherwise reiterate his support in light of public discussion about the implications of the decision.
Wilf said there has been ample communication on the issue, made clear the team's expectation is to win the NFC North in 2013 and strongly downplayed the possibility of opening negotiations during the season.
"We have a great relationship with coach Frazier," Wilf said. "We've had a lot of communicating back and forth on that. But now we're turning the page to the 2013 season and our focus is on, first, winning our division, which is a very tough division, and we want to get back to where we were a few years ago, and that's the top of our division. We know it's competitive, but that's our No. 1 focus. From there, hopefully it's our best opportunity for our ultimate goal, which is to win the championship."
I don't think that means an NFC North title will be required for Frazier to keep his job in 2014, but it's clear the Vikings want to see more than they saw last season. Asked if there was a possibility of addressing Frazier's contract during the season, as the Vikings did in 2009 with former coach Brad Childress, Wilf said: "Once the season goes, we're not discussing any contractual relationships or anything of that sort."
So one way or the other, the Vikings will face a franchise decision next offseason. There are no more options in Frazier's contract, meaning he is signed through 2014. Given most teams' reluctance to enter a season with a "lame duck" coach in the final year of his contract, the Vikings almost certainly will give Frazier an extension after the 2013 season or fire him. The stakes are as high for this franchise as they have been in a while.