Monday, December 1, 2008

A willingness to listen

Good story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune yesterday about Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, a member of the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl team who began his coaching career at tiny Trinity College outside of Chicago.

Coach Frazier played for Buddy Ryan in Chicago and was an assistant on Tony Dungy's staff in Indy when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI.

According to the article, "Frazier's coaching philosophy was shaped by two men in particular: Dungy and former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Both coaches left lasting impressions on him in terms of strategy and managing players. Though his low-key personality stands in stark contrast to the fiery Ryan, Frazier said he's tried to emulate Ryan's willingness to listen to his players."

"As great as he was as a coordinator, I think one of his greatest strengths was he would listen to us as players," Frazier said. "We would be in the middle of the game and I would say, 'Hey Buddy, I feel more comfortable if I could do this versus that.' He would go, 'Just make it work.'

As a player, when a guy says something like that to you as opposed to being rigid and saying, 'This is the way I want it. You have to do it that way,' you respond and you want to make it work because he's empowered you.

So when Jared Allen or Ben Leber comes to me and asks, 'Can we look at this. Is that all right?' -- for me to be so rigid and not listen, that would be a contradiction to what I saw from a guy who I think is one of the greatest defensive coordinators in National Football League history."

According to Coach Frazier, coaching is more than simply developing a game plan:

"It's important that the guys who are in leadership... that we really have to lead from an emotional standpoint as well and not just X's and O's. Brad [Childress] talks to us all the time about that. Players are going to follow our lead."