Vikings fire Leslie Frazier

ESPNAPI_IMG_NO_ALTEXT_Value

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings fired coach Leslie Frazier on Monday morning, one year after they made the playoffs and one day after they finished a 5-10-1 season.

After going 10-6 in 2012, the Vikings regressed this year, done in by a leaky defense and an inability to find stability at quarterback. Frazier finished 21-32-1 in three-plus seasons.

Frazier, 54, had one season remaining on his contract.

"We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings," owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement distributed by the team. "He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here, and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community. Making this change is difficult but what we determined is best for the organization."

Wilf did not take questions at an afternoon news conference.

General manager Rick Spielman said the team planned to begin its coaching search immediately.

"That process will start this afternoon, and I expect to have interviews lined up over the next three or four days," Spielman said. "Timeline on putting a new head coach in place -- ideally, the situation you would like to have that done by the Senior Bowl. ... But that's not going to be the ultimatum. If it takes longer, we will do that."

Spielman also said he plans for an extensive search, which might have already begun.

Both of the Broncos' coordinators, Jack Del Rio on defense and Adam Gase on offense, are on the Vikings' radar, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Del Rio played linebacker for the Vikings, and Minnesota has been inquiring about Gase. The Vikings also have requested permission to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, league sources told Schefter.

The Cleveland Browns, who fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday, have already formally asked for permission to interview Gase and Bowles.

Gase would prefer to wait until after the Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs before speaking with anyone, however.

The Broncos, with 606 points, set a single-season scoring record while quarterback Peyton Manning set league records for touchdown passes (55) and yards passing (5,477). Gase also has been lauded by many in the league for his work as the team moved toward a read option offense for Tim Tebow as well as his work with the team's receivers when he arrived on Josh McDaniels' staff in 2009.

Frazier talked with the team in what players termed an emotional meeting Monday morning, letting them know they could contact him if they ever needed anything.

After the meeting, many players talked as much about Frazier's influence on their lives as they did about what he did for them as a coach. Star running back Adrian Peterson, who said after each of the Vikings' last two games that he planned to talk to ownership in support of Frazier, declined comment in the locker room Monday.

"I'm going to call him as soon as I leave here," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "I'm sure he's probably got all kinds of stuff coming today, but I think it's important he knows how I really feel and how much I appreciate all he's done for me in all six years I have been here.

"As rocky as it may have been, I know he's always had my best interests at heart, and that means a lot to me."

Quarterback Christian Ponder sputtered and produced three straight turnover-plagued performances to start the 2013 season. The Vikings lost all three, on last-minute touchdowns to Chicago and Cleveland.

They lost two other games and tied one in similar fashion, squandering leads inside the 52-second mark in five of those. Although veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield was cut before the season to save space under the salary cap, the defense that had been Frazier's expertise faltered badly.

Drafting Ponder 12th overall in 2011 was primarily Spielman's responsibility, but the shaky quarterback situation was far from the only problem for this team.

Hired by Brad Childress to be the defensive coordinator in 2007, Frazier interviewed for seven head-coach openings over a three-year span: Atlanta and Miami in 2008; Denver, Detroit and St. Louis in 2009; and Buffalo and Seattle in 2010.

His opportunity came with the Vikings when Childress was fired in the middle of a messy 2010 season.

Credited with keeping the team on an even keel while attention swirled around Brett Favre and the Metrodome roof collapsed the night before a scheduled game, Frazier went 3-3 as interim coach, including an improbable win at playoff-bound Philadelphia after the NFL postponed that contest by two days because of a forecast snowstorm.

Frazier got the job for good in 2011, but after a lockout-shortened offseason, the Vikings went 3-13 behind an ineffective Donovan McNabb and then-rookie Ponder at quarterback. In 2012, they staged a remarkable turnaround, riding Peterson to a spot in the playoffs.

Childress had his contract extended in 2009 while the Vikings were on their way to the NFC Championship Game, but the team came unglued the following fall. Wary of a similarly expensive overcommitment, Wilf and the front office merely picked up a fourth-year option on Frazier's deal last January, putting him in a prove-it situation for 2013.

Right away, his future with the team turned grim.

And as widely liked as Frazier has been throughout the organization, the ultra-competitive landscape of the NFL rarely allows coaches with two double-digit-defeat records in three years to keep their jobs.

"We went 3-3 I think his interim year. We were 3-13 the following year," Spielman said. "There are some things that pop up when you look. Our road record has not been the best. The way we've lost some games this year, as well, but I think it's just taking that whole body of work and digging down and analyzing everything to try to make this difficult decision."

Spielman said the decision to fire Frazier was made Monday morning but that the call was made at the ownership level.

"The ownership hired Leslie," Spielman said. "I was not the general manager at the time. We had a long, extensive talk last night through it. But ultimately that comes down to our ownership."

A former player, Frazier's career as a cornerback for Chicago was cut short by a knee injury in the Super Bowl. Frazier soon ventured into coaching, building the program at Trinity College from scratch in 1988.

Fifteen years later, he became the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati. With two years as an assistant with Indianapolis, Frazier came from the Tony Dungy mold of coaches, a soft-spoken man of deep Christian faith who has excelled at creating a culture of harmony and respect around the locker room.

"Don't mistake kindness for weakness," defensive end Jared Allen said. "Coach Frazier worked our butts off. Coach Frazier wasn't always just smiles and everything like that. But he's a good human being. That's the important thing. I'll always remember what Coach Frazier did for me off the field. He helped me grow as a man, and for that, I'll always be thankful."

After the Vikings beat Detroit on Sunday to wrap up the season, Frazier stumped to stay. He said he was proud of the job he had done.

"I just have a lot of belief in my abilities as a coach and have a lot of belief in the guys on our team, a lot of belief in our staff, and for that reason, you don't have to walk in fear," Frazier said at the Metrodome. "You just know that things are going to work out."

ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and The Associated Press contributed to this report.