Raiders Kick Off Head Coaching Search, Schedule Interview With Leslie Frazier

Leslie Frazier, a former head coach in Minnesota and an experienced defensive coordinator, is making an attempt to return to coaching in the NFL after stepping away from the sport for a year. Frazier made it clear that his intention was to return to the league as a head coach, and after sitting out the 2023 season, he is getting a few opportunities. After interviewing today with the Chargers, Frazier has reportedly been scheduled for another interview, this one with the Raiders, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

This officially kicks off the search for the Raiders’ new head coach. Obviously, interim head coach Antonio Pierce, who took over for the fired Josh McDaniels and went 5-4 in his place, is considered a favorite for the job. Pierce did an admirable job in replacement duty for McDaniels and won the support of many players and staff during his tenure. While there’s likely been internal discussions about his potential future with the team, an official interview has not been reported.

Likewise, both University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have been linked to Las Vegas as potential candidates or interests, but neither has officially interviewed with the team. Unless one of the three interviews with the Raiders before Tuesday (when Frazier is scheduled to interview), Frazier will officially be the first candidate interviewed for the job.

Frazier was most recently the Bills defensive coordinator from 2017-22, serving as the team’s primary play-caller during this span, until Sean McDermott decided to go in another direction following a one-sided home loss to the Bengals to close out the 2022 season, opting instead to call plays himself. Nevertheless, Frazier — no longer under contract with the Bills, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler — is back in the mix.

Prior to his 2023 hiatus, Frazier had worked as an NFL assistant or head coach for 24 straight years. The Bills initially framed his departure as the veteran stepping away with the possibility of a return, but it was later believed that McDermott made the call to move on from his six-year defensive lieutenant.

Frazier has been a regular candidate for head coaching gigs over the years, interviewing for the Bears, Dolphins, and Giants’ jobs in 2022. The Texans interviewed Frazier in 2021, and the Colts met with him in 2018. Promoted from the interim job in Minnesota to official head coach in 2011, Frazier went 21-32-1 while leading the Vikings. Much of that time came when first-round bust Christian Ponder quarterbacked the team. Minnesota’s 2012 squad, spurred by MVP Adrian Peterson, still found their way to the playoffs.

Frazier, 64, is on the older end of the spectrum for candidates looking for a head coaching job. While this could be considered a hurdle, two of the abovementioned candidates are 71 (Belichick) and 60 (Harbaugh), so until the field of candidates expands, age shouldn’t be considered much of an issue, though the oldest a head coach has ever been when hired was Bruce Arians at 66 years old.

If age or other factors preclude Frazier from finding a role as a head coach, he could still find his way back to the league as a coordinator. A number of teams are expected to be looking for defensive coordinators this offseason. The Jaguars fired their defensive staff. Some teams with head coaching vacancies like the Seahawks and Titans, have seen their coordinators receive interview requests to coach elsewhere. And teams like the 49ers, Ravens, Panthers, Rams, and Lions could find themselves in need of a defensive play-caller should their own be hired away as a head coach. Whether as a head coach or a defensive coordinator, Frazier should have a good chance to find himself back on an NFL sideline in 2024.

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