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History Suggests Leslie Frazier Unlikely to Lead Vikings to Winning Record in 2011

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Only 5 of 41 head coaches in NFC Central Division history have notched a winning record in their first year with the team; only two have made the playoffs

With the hiring of the eighth head coach in franchise history, the Minnesota Vikings officially began the Leslie Frazier era on Monday.

But with memories of a near Super Bowl appearance less than one year old, not many Vikings fans - nor perhaps Zygi Wilf - are likely to have much patience for a protracted 'rebuilding' period.

But what can the Vikings reasonably expect from Frazier during next year's campaign?

History says, not much.

A Smart Politics review of first-year coaching records in NFC Central Division history finds that just 5 out of 41 were able to turn in a winning season during their first full season and only two made it to the playoffs.

The best debut coaching record for an NFC Central team was turned in by one of Frazier's predecessors, Dennis Green.

Green led the Vikings to an 11-5 record during the 1992 season, which included a trip to the playoffs as a Wild Card team (losing 24-7 to the Washington Redskins).

Green is just one of two coaches from the Black and Blue division who made the playoffs during their first season as head coach with the team.

Bobby Ross led Detroit to a 9-7 record during his first year with the Lions in 1997 (losing the Wild Card game to Tampa Bay, 20-10). Ross, however, had several years of prior head coaching experience with the San Diego Chargers (including an AFC Championship in 1994).

The other three coaches to notch winning records during their first season were Mike Holmgren (9-7, 1992) and Mike Sherman (9-7, 2000) of the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings' fourth coach, Jerry Burns.

Burns directed Minnesota to a 9-7 finish in 1986, one year after Bud Grant's second stint as coach of the team.

Of the remaining 36 NFC Central Division coaches who did not record winning seasons during their first year, five eked out .500 campaigns and 31 had losing records.

Still, expectations are that Frazier will at least improve on the Vikings performance in 2011 from the disappointing 2010 season. However, history does not paint a rosy picture that even this achievement will come easily.

Less than half of coaches in their first year with NFC Central teams have improved upon their team's performance from the previous season (18 of 40).

The best turnaround was recorded by Mike Holmgren who took Lindy Infante's 4-12 Green Bay squad from 1991 and turned it into a 9-7 team in 1992 (with the addition of one Brett Favre).

Next best are Green Bay's Mike McCarthy in 2006 and Detroit's Bobby Ross in 1997, who each won four more games than the team did in its previous season.

Minnesota's Jerry Burns had a two-game improvement in his debut 1986 season (going 9-7) while Mike Tice improved by one game in 2002 (going 6-10 in his first full year).

Four coaches notched the same winning percentage in their first year as the preceding season: Minnesota's Bud Grant (1967, .321), Green Bay's Forrest Gregg (1984, .500), Detroit's Tommy Hudspeth (1977, .429), and Chicago's Jack Pardee (1975, .286).

The remaining 22 coaches led their teams to poorer records than the previous season, including Minnesota's Les Steckel (falling from 8-8 under Grant in 1983 to 3-13 in 1984) and Brad Childress (dropping from 9-7 under Mike Tice in 2005 to 6-10 in 2006).

(A 41st coach, John McKay, coached Tampa Bay in their expansion year).

Overall, first year coaches in the NFC Central have recorded a winning percentage of .372 (227-387-10), compared to a .388 winning percentage in the team's previous season (234-371-8).

NFC Central Division First Year Coaching Records, 1967-Present

Year
Team
Coach
W
L
T
%
Change
1992
Vikings
Dennis Green
11
5
0
.688
.188
1992
Packers
Mike Holmgren
9
7
0
.563
.313
1997
Lions
Bobby Ross
9
7
0
.563
.250
1986
Vikings
Jerry Burns
9
7
0
.563
.125
2000
Packers
Mike Sherman
9
7
0
.563
.063
2006
Packers
Mike McCarthy
8
8
0
.500
.250
1974
Lions
Rick Forzano
7
7
0
.500
.036
1984
Packers
Forrest Gregg
8
8
0
.500
.000
1968
Bears
Jim Dooley
7
7
0
.500
-.036
1999
Packers
Ray Rhodes
8
8
0
.500
-.188
1973
Lions
Don McCafferty
6
7
1
.464
-.143
1968
Packers
Phil Bengston
6
7
1
.464
-.214
1989
Lions
Wayne Fontes*
7
9
0
.438
.188
1985
Lions
Darryl Rogers
7
9
0
.438
.156
1993
Bears
Dave Wannstedt
7
9
0
.438
.125
1978
Lions
Monte Clark
7
9
0
.438
.009
1978
Bears
Neill Armstrong
7
9
0
.438
-.205
1967
Lions
Joe Schmidt
5
7
2
.429
.107
1977
Lions
Tommy Hudspeth*
6
8
0
.429
.000
1999
Bears
Dick Jauron
6
10
0
.375
.125
2002
Vikings
Mike Tice*
6
10
0
.375
.063
2006
Vikings
Brad Childress
6
10
0
.375
-.188
1996
Buccaneers
Tony Dungy
6
10
0
.375
-.063
1971
Packers
Dan Devine
4
8
2
.357
-.071
1982
Bears
Mike Ditka
3
6
0
.333
-.042
1967
Vikings
Bud Grant
3
8
3
.321
.000
1972
Bears
Abe Gibron
4
9
1
.321
-.107
2003
Lions
Steve Mariucci
5
11
0
.313
.125
2004
Bears
Lovie Smith
5
11
0
.313
-.125
1992
Buccaneers
Sam Wyche
5
11
0
.313
.125
1975
Bears
Jack Pardee
4
10
0
.286
.000
1975
Packers
Bart Starr
4
10
0
.286
-.143
1987
Buccaneers
Ray Perkins
4
11
0
.267
.142
1988
Packers
Linde Infante
4
12
0
.250
-.117
2006
Lions
Rod Marinelli
3
13
0
.188
-.125
1984
Vikings
Les Steckel
3
13
0
.188
-.313
1991
Buccaneers
Richard Williamson*
3
13
0
.188
-.188
2009
Lions
Jim Schwartz
2
14
0
.125
.125
2001
Lions
Marty Mornhinweg
2
14
0
.125
-.438
1985
Buccaneers
Leeman Bennett
2
14
0
.125
-.250
1976
Buccaneers
John McKay
0
14
0
.000
---
"Change" column indicates change in winning percentage from the team's previous season. * Also coached part of the previous season. Tampa Bay was in the NFC Central from 1976 through 2001. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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