Former Bills Defensive Coordinator’s New NFL Opportunity Turns Heads

Leslie Frazier

Getty Leslie Frazier, former Bills coordinator/assistant head coach.

When the Buffalo Bills announced in February that defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Leslie Frazier was stepping away for the 2023 NFL season, the news came as a huge surprise.

While the team’s statement read that Frazier “plans to return to coaching in 2024,” it wasn’t clear whether that would be in Buffalo. The Bills subsequently announced that head coach Sean McDermott would take over as defensive coordinator, and with Frazier turning 64 in April, there were questions as to whether the ’85 Bears legend would ultimately retire after his one-year sabbatical.

However, Frazier’s name stood out on an NFL memo released May 17 listing participants in the league’s May 21-23 Coach Accelerator. Other participants, including Bills running back coach Kelly Skipper, were listed along with their team, but Frazier’s name was unaffiliated.

“Quite interesting to see Leslie Frazier’s name here,” tweeted “Go Long” host Tyler Dunne. “He’ll be back.”

The league memo said the Coach Accelerator “aims to increase exposure between owners, executives, and diverse coaching talent, providing ample opportunity to develop and build upon their relationships. In a change to the nomination process this year, clubs were able to nominate those from outside of their organization. The 40 participants this year are attending based on their high potential to be considered for a head coach position in the future.”

Leslie Frazier Expressed Frustration About Getting Passed Over for Head Coaching Positions

Leslie Frazier

GettyMinnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier in 2013.

In 2010, Frazier became the interim head coach for the Minnesota Vikings after Brad Childress was fired, a position he held through December 2013. Though he thrived since landing in Buffalo in 2017 (the Bills have continuously had one of the top-ranked defensive squads since his arrival), Frazier sounded off on his inability to get another head coaching position last year, opening up about getting overlooked by the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Chicago Bears.

“I’d be lying if I told you that I felt like it would take this long to have that opportunity come along, especially after some of the success — and particularly the most recent success — we’ve had in Buffalo,” Frazier said on the AP Pro Football Podcast on June 30, 2022. “So it’s discouraging in some ways, but you just have to be able to control what you can control.”

Instead of hiring Frazier, the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, the Giants went with Brian Daboll, and the Bears hired Matt Eberflus, the latter of whom was the only coach to previously serve as a defensive coordinator.

“Two of those cases, they said we would prefer to go with an offensive coach and they pointed to their young quarterback as the reason,” Frazier said. “And I said this to both teams, that I think I would do a good job of hiring a strong offensive coordinator, even though my background is defense. There have been a lot of defensive head coaches that have won Super Bowls in our league. Because at the end of the day, you need the right leadership. … It’s unfortunate. I think it’s very narrow-minded to only see the head coach as an offensive guy because you have a young quarterback. You need the right leader in that role because you’ve got to be able to handle multiple responsibilities, not just call offensive plays. I just I think that’s a misguided approach, but I’m not the guy doing the hiring.”

Von Miller was Blindsided By Frazier’s Departure

Von Miller

GettyVon Miller speaks on Radio Row ahead of the 2023 Super Bowl.

Bills superstar edge rusher Von Miller told The Buffalo News in March that Frazier’s sudden departure left him blindsided.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Miller said. “He had a great year with us the last year, and he’s had several great years the whole time he’s been there. So, I didn’t see it coming, especially the timing of it. Usually, you know, coaches, they come to a decision like right after the season, when jobs are available.”

While a bulk of the Bills’ fan base was thrilled to see Frazier gone following back-to-back playoff collapses, the 33-year-old has nothing but respect for the legendary coach. “Coach Frazier, he’s vested in this league,” Miller said. “He’s a Hall of Fame player, Hall of Fame coach. And, what do you take immediately, you know, when you get guys like that, that need a break, you think it’s health-related, but he just needed time.”

Fans wondered if there was more drama to the situation after Beane announced Frazier wanted to take “a step back,” but The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia wrote that he didn’t believe that narrative.

Buscaglia wrote in his Mailbag column last month: “I know there were quite a few wondering if Frazier’s decision to take a year off had more to it, but Beane is a straight shooter in interview settings. If he didn’t want to shed more light on something, he would say something like, ‘I don’t really want to get into all of that,’ rather than saying something completely untrue. When asked, point blank, if Frazier would have been the defensive coordinator in 2023 if Frazier wanted to, Beane succinctly said the job would have remained with Frazier.”

Read More
, ,
Comment Here
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments