Thursday, July 27, 2017

Leslie Frazier deserves a shout out for helping turn Everson Griffen around

Everson Griffen is getting a four-year extension worth a reported $34 million in guarantees (full details of the contract when disclosed will help us decide whether this is a good or bad deal for the Vikings). Whether or not you think Griffen is worth that kind of money, the fact is the Vikings see him as a core player, a solid veteran leader and someone who can help them pursue a Super Bowl title. Once upon a time, the odds seemed to be hugely against Griffen ever becoming the kind of player who would one day be thought of as a key piece to a championship-caliber defense. Once upon a time it seemed Griffen was headed straight for the shitpile.

Long before Griffen made headlines for his sacks or his contract signings (or his charitable work, or for being a team ambassador) he made very different headlines (via Shutdown Corner):

Minnesota Vikings rookie defensive end Everson Griffen had a very bad weekend. 
On Friday night, Griffen was arrested for being drunk in public, and then was released on Saturday morning, as reported by TMZ. Then, on Monday afternoon, he was arrested again after police pulled him over and found him with an invalid drivers license, and Griffen tried to flee on foot. That's when crotch-grabbing and Tasers came in to play. 
From the L.A. Times
Griffen then told [police] "he did not want to go back to jail" and sprinted away from the officers, who caught up with him after a short distance. 
When one of the officers tried to subdue Griffen, he allegedly grabbed the officer in the groin area, the source said. Moments later, officers used a Taser to subdue him, the source said. 
For those of you keeping track at home, that's an arrest, a release, another arrest, an attempt to flee, an alleged crotch assault on a police officer, and then, the coup de grĂ¢ce, the Taser.

I really hope Griffen had a great time between Friday and Monday. 
Griffen, after being drafted in the fourth round, played in 11 games for the Vikings last year, though he never started. He recorded 11 tackles and no sacks in his limited time, and police say he showed the speed of a man who could be chased down by a cop after only a short distance. 

Those kinds of headlines led to people like Mike Florio writing very unflattering things like this (via PFT):

Somehow, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has made more news this week than he did in all 17 weeks of a lackluster rookie season, combined. 
Two arrests and a scuttled Super Bowl party later, there’s one last item worth mentioning. 
Though Griffen generally has blamed the decision on the NFL, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier tells Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he had a role cancellation of Griffen’s planned Super Bowl party. 
Asked if Frazier told Griffen not to have the party, Frazier said via text, “[S]omething like that.” 
Griffen told Fowler via text that it was “too big a risk” to have the party and that “I’m a football player.” 
Others around the league weren’t impressed by the move.  Said one league source via text, “This Griffen guy is a complete idiot. . . .  He turned a lot of people off in [pre-draft] interviews.   Will be out of NFL soon.” 
If that happens, at least he’ll be able to have Super Bowl parties.

Once a target of PFT snark, Griffen has evolved as a person and a player to become not only one of the NFL's better edge rushers but a genuinely respected veteran and a positive locker room presence and a solid representative of the Vikings brand overall. As you may have noted from the PFT piece quoted above, former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier played a big role in helping Griffen turn himself around by acting as a stabilizing, discipline-imposing force in his life. Griffen came to the Vikings with "character concerns" and early on it seemed those concerns were very warranted. After Griffen was arrested twice in three days in an incident that was splashed all over TMZ and other similar outlets, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he was going to wash out of the league and end up as another sad example of a talented player who lacked the maturity and self-discipline necessary to succeed in the grueling world of the NFL. But, thanks in large part to Frazier's intervention, Griffen put the brakes on his descent and turned himself around and started on the path back uphill to where he is today. And now he is one of the most solid Vikings, not just on the field but off. So solid that the team had no hesitation about giving him $34 million more in guaranteed money.

Leslie Frazier gets a lot of (warranted) hate from Vikings fans for the way things went down during his brief tenure as head coach but his legacy is not all negative. At least he left behind an improved, matured Everson Griffen. If Frazier was good at anything, it was playing father figure to guys like Griffen. Not all players benefitted from his camp counselor guidance (Chris Cook learned zilch, it seems) but a few who were willing to listen did get something positive out of their surrogate-dad-time with Frazier. His Tampa-2 defense may have been a ridiculously shreddable, antiquated joke and his roster management approach may have been at best eccentric - and don't even get me started with his droning, dull, cliche-ridden media engagement attempts - but Frazier was obviously great with players one-on-one. Partially thanks to Frazier, we get to read things like this about Everson Griffen instead of this. Frazier sucked hard as a head coach but at least his time with the Vikings resulted in something positive.

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