For the past few years, the Vikings quietly have tolerated the periodic antics of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, primarily because he could still from time to time bring it on game day (except when facing Julius Peppers). But as time went by and with more of the success of the left side of the line tracing to guard Steve Hutchinson and not McKinnie — and with McKinnie reportedly showing up able to do the full rotation on a normal bathroom scale plus 50 — the Vikings needed to move on.
The way they handled the situation has provided the most concrete example yet that the team’s new coach has, and will keep, the respect of his players.
“We made a decision for our organization that we thought was the best thing as we’re trying to bring a world championship to Minnesota,” Frazier said Wednesday, per Tom Pelissero of 1500espn.com. “In order for us to do that, there are certain things I talked to our team about on that first night, that Sunday night, that we got together as a group and I talked to them about the criteria and what I thought was necessary to win in our league, and in order for us to get where we need to go, there are certain things that have to happen.
“In Bryant’s case, he’s been a terrific player for the Vikings. I love him as a person. We’ve gotten a great relationship together. But at this point, for all parties involved, I just thought it was the right thing to do, and I’m sure he’s going to catch on with a team and he’s going to do well. He’s a terrific player right now, but for where we are right now and where we’re trying to go to, it just wasn’t the right fit for the direction that we want to go.”
Surely, there’s more to this story. And former coach Brad Childress would have been tempted to throw a few barbs if he were the one making the move. But Frazier knows that he gains nothing by taking potshots or airing dirty laundry.
The decision to dump a long-time left tackle is nearly as important as the decision to move on from a long-time starting quarterback. The Vikings made it, and Frazier felt no need to justify the move by talking badly about McKinnie, even if Frazier could have.
So even though there was an undercurrent of hostility toward McKinnie in the locker room, players tend to appreciate it when that stuff remains in house.
Also differentiating Frazier’s handling of the situation from what his predecessor did in a similar case? Frazier let the guy who signs the checks know what was going on. Per Pelissero, owner Zygi Wilf said he knew the move was coming.
“The team is in Coach Frazier’s hands,” Wilf said. “I’m not going to worry about that. He has my full confidence.”
More importantly, Frazier has the confidence of the locker room. And that could help the entire organization secure the approval of the fans.
And maybe that will get the powers-that-be in Minnesota more willing to build the team its new stadium.