There is something a little different about this week for Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. It isn’t just that the Bills are coming off only their second loss of the season.
The need to improve is top of mind for Frazier, as he prepares the Bills defense for the Minnesota Vikings. The 7-1 Vikings. The once-Frazier-coached Vikings.
“Well, coming off of a loss, that’s what’s on your mind: How can we improve? What can we do to get better?” Frazier said Thursday. “No matter who the opponent would be, those would be my emotions – really no different in that regard, just really focusing on us and what we’ve got to do to get better.”
Frazier was head coach of the Vikings for three-plus seasons, starting in 2010, when he went from defensive coordinator to interim head coach, through 2013. His teams went 21-32-1 with one playoff appearance after a 10-6 record in 2012.
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Frazier is unwavering ahead of Sunday’s game, a product of the passing of time and his fixation on the present.
His first chance to go up against the team he once helmed came the very next year, when Frazier was a defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 19-13 loss in overtime.
The Bills and Vikings last met in 2018, a 27-6 win for Buffalo, and quarterback Josh Allen’s first win as a starter.
Nine years removed from coaching the Vikings, and four years since last facing them, this meeting feels less personally significant for Frazier.
“The fact that we’ve played Minnesota before definitely takes a little bit of the shine off of it, in that regard,” Frazier said. “And just where we are in the season – being in the middle of the season, needing to get a win at home – that’s where the focus is.”
The Bills and Vikings are paired in NFL history as the only franchises that sit at 0-4 in Super Bowls.
It’s no surprise that Frazier, whose calm demeanor steadies the Bills defense, is approaching this game like any other. It’s also a busy week: The Bills are potentially making adjustments on both sides of the ball because of a slew of injuries.
Three of the Bills defensive starters – safety Jordan Poyer, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and defensive end Greg Rousseau – have not practiced through Thursday. Cornerback Tre’Davious White’s timeline to play is still unclear. The run defense is going over plenty of corrections.
But as Frazier navigates all that, some family members and friends have checked in.
“I got some texts on Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “Just people saying, ‘Hey, I know you’re getting ready for this ball game. Wish you good luck.’ That kind of thing. But no animosity (toward Minnesota) or anything like that.”
Frazier has conceded some surprise that he has not had another opportunity to be a head coach since his stint with Minnesota. He has interviewed for other head coaching jobs since, including this past offseason, but without an offer.
Still, while hopeful for a possible future chance and while focused on the Bills defense in the meantime, Frazier sounds at peace as he prepares to face the Vikings.
“I still have a lot of friends there in Minnesota, a lot of people in organization I know,” Frazier said. “It was really good for me when I was there. People were good to me. But right now, it’s just whoever the team is, we’d be having the same emotions.”
It’s hard for Frazier to be too reflective when a season – and a career – is still unfolding.
“I don’t really look back at it in that way,” Frazier said. “So much (of) my mind is about now and moving forward. Maybe when I retire, you’ll look back and reflect on some of the places you’ve been in your career. But right now, it’s about the now, and what we’ve got to get done going forward.”