When Sean McDermott hired Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 2017, Frazier wanted McDermott to benefit from the lessons Frazier learned as a rookie head coach.
Frazier, who turns 61 next month, spent three of 21 seasons in NFL coaching at the helm of the Minnesota Vikings, from 2011 to 2013. He knew he could offer something more to McDermott, who turns 46 later this month, than just overseeing the Bills' defense.
"One of the first things that went through my mind was, 'I'm going to do everything I can to help Sean not make some of the same mistakes that I made as a first-year head coach,'" Frazier said. "And that's been my goal -- to be as much of a sounding board as I can for him, to point out things that he may not see that I might see, just from experience. And, to his credit, throughout our time together, he's been very open and welcoming of some suggestions. Not that we agree on every, single thing, but that has been my role throughout the time that I have been here."
Frazier has done well enough in that role to convince McDermott, along with Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula, that he should have a title recognizing as much. On Wednesday, the team announced that Frazier will serve as both defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
“Upon taking the job in Buffalo, it was important to me to add a coach with previous head coaching experience like Leslie,” McDermott said in a statement released by the club. “His fingerprints are all over our operation, and I’m extremely grateful for all the years we have worked together. Leslie’s impact on our team is felt every day through his guidance, wisdom, and his genuine care for people.
“He is a great example to everyone within our organization.”
This is Frazier's third time as an assistant head coach.
"It just really sends the message to our players that you're actually more than just the defensive coordinator," he said. "I'm very thankful to Sean and Terry and Kim for seeing something in me other than just running our defense. It says this is a person who has head-coaching potential or capabilities, for sure."
Frazier, who played defensive back for the Chicago Bears from 1981 to 1985, began coaching in the league in 1999 as defensive backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. McDermott also began working in the NFL that year as the Eagles' scouting administrative coordinator.
They worked together in Philadelphia, under then-head coach Andy Reid, through the 2002 season, after which Frazier went on to become defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
"We were a new staff coming in (with the Eagles), kind of finding our way," Frazier said. "With most of us, it was our first time in the National Football League as coaches, so we were all learning and getting to know each other. So the relationship back then was built on just mutual friendship and trust, and all of us grew in our respective roles. Sean was a person of integrity way back then; he hasn't changed. He had a good heart, was a good friend, a person you could trust, and those things haven't changed.
"We all went our separate ways, but we all stayed in touch. The relationship and friendship was always there."
After his stint with the Bengals, Frazier went on to work for the Indianapolis Colts, becoming their assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 2006. Frazier also served as assistant head coach for the Vikings, with whom he also worked as a defensive coordinator before being named their head coach.
From 2014 to 2015, Frazier was defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2016, he was the Baltimore Ravens' secondary coach.
"My No. 1 focus is our defense, making sure that's right and getting it to where it needs to be for us to have success as a team," Frazier said. "But one of the ways where it goes beyond that, after our season or even during our season, Sean and I will sit down and we'll talk about every facet of our team. (He'll ask), 'What's happening with our offense? What's happening with our offensive staff? What's happening with our defensive staff? What do you see with special teams? What do you see from an organizational standpoint? Hey, I've got to have a meeting with the owners. This is the topic. How would you handle this? What would be your approach?'
"It runs the whole gamut. There isn't a detail that I don't think we don't really touch on regarding the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Bills' operation."