When the Buffalo Bills announced back in February that defensive coordinator and assistant head coach was Leslie Frazier taking a one-year sabbatical for the 2023 NFL season, speculation over why became a topic of interest for two main reasons.
First, any major changes in the coaching staff traditionally happen immediately following the conclusion of a team’s season, not over a month later. Second, Frazier is one of the most well-respected coaches in the NFL. Since the Bills hired Frazier in 2017, Buffalo has had one of the top-ranked defenses in the league.
While Buffalo’s defensive performances in the playoffs have been a major issue, Frazier took a lion’s share of the blame for the Bills’ infamous “13 seconds” loss against the Chiefs, and in January, allowed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to get 30 first downs while missing three key starters on their offensive line, general manager Brandon Beane exuded nothing but confidence in the ’85 Bears legend after their postseason elimination.
Frazier has yet to publicly speak out on his surprise exit from Buffalo, but his recently announced participation in the NFL’s Coach Accelerator program has The Buffalo News’ NFL insider Jay Skurski thinking the situation wasn’t enitrely amicable.
Leslie Frazier’s Departure From the Bills ‘Maybe Wasn’t His Idea’
In the new outlet’s Mailbag section shared on Saturday, May 20, a reader suggested something was off with Frazier’s situation, because “if his ultimate goal is to get another head coaching job, it’s hard to understand how stepping away from his defensive coordinator position this year could not hurt his chances.”
Skurski couldn’t help but agree. “You’re right,” he wrote. “It’s hard to see how stepping away from the game for a year would benefit Frazier in his quest to again be a head coach. With that in mind, it feels as if Frazier’s decision to do so maybe wasn’t his idea in the first place. That’s just speculation on my part, because Frazier has curiously not offered up his side of the story. Perhaps one day that will change, but until it does, all we can do is speculate. As it did when the announcement was made, it still feels to me as if Frazier has coached his last game with the Bills.”
However, with 24 seasons of experience under his belt, Frazier, who will be inducted 2023 Class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame in June, is likely hoping his body of work speaks for itself. Frazier hasn’t been shy in voicing frustration over his inability to get another head coaching position, and participating in the Coach’s Accelerator program shows he’s still gunning for the top job.
In 2010, Frazier became the interim head coach for the Minnesota Vikings after Brad Childress was fired, a position he held through December 2013. Frazier told ESPN in September 2022 that despite his success with the Bills, he believes his experience as a defensive coordinator has been a deterrence.
“I don’t want to say that I’m OK with it where it doesn’t matter anymore,” Frazier said when asked young coaches with offensive backgrounds getting hired over veteran coaches with defensive backgrounds. “You’re disappointed that people get that narrow-minded and only believe that I gotta hire this young offensive mind to lead my team because I’ve got this young quarterback, but [it’s the owner’s] team.”
Brandon Beane Said Leslie Frazier Needed to Take ‘A Step Back’
Following one of the most traumatic seasons in Bills history, Beane said the main reason for Frazier’s departure taking a much-needed break.
“It’s tough. It’s a hard business as we know. There’s a lot of scrutiny on it, and there’s a lot of hours, a lot of time put in and, and, again, not speaking for Leslie, but sometimes you may just want to take a breath for a minute,” Beane told reporters at the NFL combine. “Again, that would be for him to say, but he was very adamant that he’s not going to retire. My two cents, just wanted to take a step back this season.”
While Skurski speculates there’s likely more drama to the story, 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.”