Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been considered one of the favorites to land the Chicago Bears vacant head coaching job since the decision to fire Matt Nagy became official. And while Frazier’s candidacy has many Bears fans concerned that he’d be John Fox part two, the reality is he’s a qualified defensive-minded coach with previous head coaching experience.
But the NFL is and always has been a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league. And in Sunday’s divisional round playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Frazier’s Bills defense looked overmatched and ill-equipped to combat Patrick Mahomes and the plays dialed up by Andy Reid.
You know the deal by now. The Chiefs won in overtime, 42-36, despite Bills quarterback Josh Allen playing a near-perfect game. Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns in what was an offensive showcase by Kansas City that totaled 552 yards, 30 first downs, and eight successful third-down conversions. It was a bad day at the office for Frazier, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for his chances at landing another head coaching gig.
The regular-season success enjoyed by Buffalo’s defense is why Frazier is in the position he’s in right now. The Bills were absolutely lethal against the pass in 2021, allowing just 2,771 total passing yards against (the best in the league). They allowed the NFL’s fewest passing touchdowns, too, with just 12 and were tied for the third-most interceptions (19). The Bills were just outside the top 10 with 42 sacks.
Buffalo was solid against the run as well, finishing in the top half of the league in total rushing yards allowed. Their 18.9 points allowed per game was good for 11th-best.
Overall? It was a great year for Frazier’s group. And his defense was a huge reason why Buffalo made it as far as they did. Sure, Allen will get all the attention; that’s the way it always is with superstar quarterbacks. But the Bills’ defense played at a Super Bowl level… until Sunday.
Frazier became the Minnesota Vikings interim head coach in 2010 after the team parted ways that season with Brad Childress. He finished that year 3-3 before getting the gig for good. His first full season as the Vikings coach was a bad one—3-13—but his incredible one-season turnaround to 10-6 in 2012 continues to be one of the better coaching accomplishments of the last several years. Still, he couldn’t get over the hump with the Vikings, and a regression to 5-10-1 in 2013 cost him his job.
Now, as the assistant head coach (since 2020) and defensive coordinator (since 2017) of the Bills, who are near-universally recognized as one of the best organizations in football right now, Frazier’s last chance at being a head coach is upon us. He’s 62 years old; the time is now. He has a history with the Bears—he led the team in interceptions during their 1985 Super Bowl season—so the connection is obvious beyond just his coaching resume.
But then came Mahomes and the Chiefs. The slicing and dicing of Frazier’s secondary. The inability to clamp down and secure a win with 13 seconds left to play, and the failure to give Allen a chance in overtime to get the ‘W’ for Buffalo. It was the kind of loss that impacts perspective. It changes the narrative. It makes a Frazier-run defense flip from one of the best in the NFL to the one that couldn’t protect a lead and get the Bills to the AFC championship.
Fair or unfair, that matters.
Whether it matters enough to the Bears to dismiss Frazier as a legitimate candidate will soon be known. Chicago is expected to hire their next general manager and head coach sometime this week, with Frazier joining other coaching candidates like Brian Daboll, Matt Eberflus, and Jim Caldwell as the primary players to become the guy charged with developing Justin Fields.