Leslie Frazier has risen to the pinnacle of his profession as a football coach – he’s the head coach of a National Football League team. And now Frazier will have the opportunity to help others begin a career in the NFL as a coach in similar fashion to how he began his NFL coaching career back in the 1990s.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday that the NFL has established the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Advisory Council to further enhance the idea conceived by late Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh. Frazier, a coaching veteran of 25 years (14 of which have come in the NFL), has been named to the advisory council. The 13-member council – comprised of club presidents, general managers, head coaches and assistant coaches – will focus on developing a pipeline of minority coaches, including former NFL players pursuing opportunities in the coaching profession.
Walsh introduced the concept to expose talented minority college coaches to the NFL’s methods and philosophies when he invited a group of minority coaches to participate in San Francisco 49ers training camp. The program has mentored more than 1,500 minority coaches since it was established in 1987, and 91 minority coaches took part in this summer’s Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship.
Frazier is not the only current NFL head coach who graduated from the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who earned NFL Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press in 2009, interned with the San Francisco 49ers (1988) and Kansas City Chiefs (1991) and endorses the program.
“For a young coach, an opportunity through the fellowship is like a college student getting a great internship,” said Lewis. “Suddenly you’re exposed on a daily basis to some of the best people in your field, and you have a chance to show them first-hand what you can do.”
This past training camp, the Vikings welcome six coaches to the team as part of this program. They were: Junior Adams (Eastern Washington), Granville Eastman (Austin Peay), Darrell Fullington (St. Thomas Aquinas), Alex Jackson (Mississippi Valley State), Prince Pearson (Prairie View A&M), Ted White (Howard).
Also, the Vikings have three current assistant coaches on Frazier’s staff who are graduates of this program: QBs coach Craig Johnson, TEs coach Jimmie Johnson and RBs coach James Saxon.
The Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Advisory Council consists of: Tampa Bay RBs coach Earnest Byner, Philadelphia WRs coach David Culley, Frazier, Arizona GM Rod Graves, Arizona OL coach Russ Grimm, Cleveland President Mike Holmgren, Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Detroit GM Martin Mayhew, Kansas City GM Scott Pioli, Philadelphia Head Coach Andy Reid, Jacksonville GM Gene Smith, Houston GM Rick Smith and Arizona Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Tags: Craig Johnson, James Saxon, Jimmie Johnson, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 8 Comments »
Chris Weinke is a name with which Minnesota football fans are familiar. He never played a down for the Vikings or the Gophers, but the St. Paul native and Cretin-Derham Hall product was a standout prep athlete in Minnesota and eventually went on to play pro baseball and win a National Championship and Heisman Trophy as a QB at Florida State.
Now there’s another reason Vikings fans should pay attention to what Weinke’s doing – he’s working with Vikings QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins has a nice piece about Weinke working with the Vikings signal-callers and it should give fans some optimism about each players development.
Weinke recently became director of the IMG Madden Football Academy, located in Bradenton, Florida. As Scoggins notes, IMG is noted for its work with golf and tennis athletes but now, with Weinke in the fold, is taking on football prospects, too. One of Weinke’s clients is Cam Newton, who was taken 1st overall by the Carolina Panthers in April’s draft.
Last week Weinke began working privately with Webb and Scoggins reports that Ponder will join the action this week.
From Scoggins’ piece, it sounds like the work Weinke does with the QBs is legitimate stuff, from studying film to on-field workouts. And it’s not just mechanical studying, either. Weinke works at incorporating the specific offense each player will have to learn once the labor situation is resolved.
“We’re spending about 3 to 3 1/2 hours a day in the classroom installing his offense and watching video,” Weinke said in Scoggins’ piece. “We film everything, we video it, we analyze it. We come back in the afternoon and do some more installation and review some video. It’s really similar to what they would face if they went to a minicamp following the draft.
“I’ll do the same thing with him [as Newton],” Weinke said of working with the Vikings QBs. “There will be an installation of the offense, for him to get familiar with the verbiage and the concepts. We’ll take all that information and go to the field and apply all of that.”
Whether the work and preparation the Vikings QBs will go through with Weinke is as effective as it would be with actual Vikings coaches is unknown. But, even if it’s just a fraction of what they’d learn studying with Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and QBs coach Craig Johnson, the bottom line for me is both Ponder and Webb are learning how to study and prepare; and they’re learning it from a former pro QB who was known as a heady player and a good leader.
Tags: Bill Musgrave, Christian Ponder, Craig Johnson, Joe Webb
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 121 Comments »
The Vikings selected QB Christian Ponder with their 1st-round pick on Thursday night, a move that was met with mixed reaction among the Vikings fan base. I understand some of the criticism, but I also experienced some frustration right after the pick because of the negative reaction to the selection.
So, let’s talk it out quickly. Here are 5 points to Ponder about our new QB…
1. Assessing Ponder’s value at pick #12
It’s clear to me that the critics’ number one beef with this pick is the value, meaning there’s a belief the Vikings could’ve traded back in the 1st round to acquire more picks later in the draft while still ending up with Ponder. This may be true, but it might also not be true. The Miami Dolphins (#15) and Washington Redskins (#16) were lurking just a few picks back, and it’s certainly possible they could’ve selected Ponder with their picks. Also, I’d submit to critics that the true “value” of a rookie QB isn’t determined now. It’s determined down the line, when we know whether he turned out to be a productive starter who leads his club to wins and, ultimately, playoff victories.
To me, here’s the bottom line on this issue: The Vikings didn’t find themselves without a partner at the end of this year’s QB shuffle. Now that would’ve been reason for criticism.
2. An ideal fit in the Vikings offensive scheme
I’ll say that the reaction and mood of Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and QBs coach Craig Johnson following the 1st round is the complete opposite as the mood of critics of this selection. Ponder was described by many analysts as the perfect QB for a west coach-type of offense. I’m not sure “west coast” is the most accurate characterization of what Musgrave will run in Minnesota, but I am sure that many of the principles of the west coast offense (rhythm, timing, variety of routes) will be found in the offense that Musgrave employs here. Ponder has experience being under center – a quality not always found in today’s college QBs – and Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman says he is composed in the pocket, even when facing pressure.
Fans will see almost right away that Ponder is comfortable in the pocket and won’t compromise the chance for a completion whenever he faces pressure.
3. Intelligence and passion
In doing some reconnaissance on Ponder’s mental makeup and character, it became clear to me quite quickly that Ponder is considered an extremely intelligent player and he has a passion for the game that was admired by his teammates and coaches. Spielman said he talked to coaches who described Ponder as a player who wouldn’t come off the field, whether it be in games or at practices. A Vikings scout also told me that Ponder’s offensive coaches at Florida State were able to run a completely new scheme each week because of Ponder’s ability to grasp concepts in a matter of a few days. Also, Ponder graduated in 2+ years from Florida State and he’s currently working on his second Master’s degree.
4. An experienced, senior QB with a lot of wins
I actually tend to favor senior QBs coming out of college. While it can be argued that underclassmen QBs tend to be more talented (which is why they’re entering the NFL draft early), I think the difference in physical skill sets between senior passers and underclassmen passers is negligible compared to the bigger difference in their awareness and ability to both handle adversity and process information quickly during a game. Ponder played in 35 games during his college career, winning 22 of them and performing well in big spots. He’s the first QB since Chris Weinke to defeat both the University of Miami and the University of Florida in the same season and he was also named MVP of this year’s Senior Bowl.
A legitimate knock on Ponder is his injury history. He missed time in both 2009 and 2010 with throwing arm injuries, but he should also be credited for insisting on playing through pain during his career, particularly during his last game in 2009 and throughout the entire 2010 season.
I think one trait of Ponder’s that Vikings fan will be particularly pleased with is his athleticism. He throws pretty well on the run and he had 10 rushing TDs in college, displaying the mobility necessary to both elude rushers and pick up yardage down the field. Should the Vikings pass protection break down, Ponder will not be a sitting duck in the backfield; he’ll be able to escape and either find an open receiver downfield or simply take off and pick up yardage with his legs.
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, Bill Musgrave, Christian Ponder, Craig Johnson, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 93 Comments »