Leslie Frazier Finally Breaks Silence on ‘Reasons’ for Bills Departure

Leslie Frazier

Getty Former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier in January 2023.

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

Three months after his sudden exit, Frazier opened up to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer to discuss the mysterious departure.

“I think my reasons for stepping away were the right reasons; I feel good about it,” Frazier, 64, said.

The timing was odd, though. Coaching changes traditionally happen at season’s end, not over a month later. And the Bills had a top-ranked defense under Frazier every year since they hired him in 2017.

Some pundits debated whether he was forced out, even though Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Frazier simply needed to “take a breath for a minute.” And there were rumors of retirement, but his participation in the NFL’s Coach Accelerator program in late May indicated that he was committed to making a comeback as a head coach.

“It just gives me a chance to see things from a different perspective, get recharged again and reenergized,” Frazier said in the May 30 story. “I’m gonna go watch some teams in their OTAs, will probably do the same thing again in training camp, go visit some clubs as well. And then in the fall, I will really begin to take a look at what’s happening around the league, make sure I stay up on any new trends, anything that’s changing.”

Pro Football Network listed Frazier as a possible “second-chance coach,” comparing him to coaches such as Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Andy Reid, who flourished in their second opportunities to lead a team.

“In an era where it seems like the coaches who make the most noise are the newest and youngest options available, it’s easy to forget how impactful second-chance coaches … have been,” Arif Hasan wrote in story published January 1.

Hasan called Frazier a “culture builder” who could “reinvigorate a team … that needs to be torn down from the studs.”

Leslie Frazier Acknowledged That Being Unemployed ‘Was Hard’ at First

After five years as a player for the Chicago Bears, nine seasons as a college coach and 24 seasons coaching in the NFL, Frazier said that adjusting to life without an incredibly demanding job was not easy.

“Man, early on, this is the third month. So for me, that first month or two, it was hard, man, just trying to find my rhythm and getting used to having free time,” Frazier said. “It’s been so long — more than 30 years — since I haven’t been on a schedule this time of the year. So it was a challenge just trying to figure out what to do with myself.

“But over the last three or four weeks, things have gotten a lot better as far as me being organized in how I want to spend my time. And I’m thankful for it, just very, very thankful that I can do this. I’m so grateful that I’m in a position where we can step back and not be sweating about finances. So, just very thankful.”

Leslie Frazier Is ‘Hoping’ an Owner Gives Him a Shot at Head Coach

Leslie Frazier

GettyLeslie Frazier in 2013 as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

As for whether he gets hired to be a head coach next year, Frazier said he’s at peace either way. “I really feel good about where I am.”

“Hopefully, an owner will give me a chance to talk to him about an opportunity,” the ’85 Bears legend said. “If that doesn’t happen, I’m good. I’ve had a good career. I’m good. My goal is to be a head coach. I know I don’t have much time left. I’m at an age where it seems like owners are going younger and younger, but I think I have some things I can bring to the table. We’ll see what happens.”

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.”

With Frazier gone, the Bills will look toward head coach Sean McDermott to work double duty as defensive coordinator for the 2023 NFL season.

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