When the Buffalo Bills’ 2022 season came to a deflating end at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals during the divisional round of the playoffs, many fans immediately began calling for changes. Once again, a perceived strength of the team — its defense — fell victim to a potent passing game. Though it’s nearly impossible to bottle up any NFL passing attack in today’s game, Bills Mafia were concerned with the team’s performances in the biggest moments.
Shortly after the season ended — but also after the bulk of league-wide hirings had been completed — news broke that defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier was stepping away from his post and the league for the 2023 NFL season. Frazier made mention of a return to coaching for the 2024 season, but provided no details. Head coach Sean McDermott then announced his decision to call the team’s defense this coming season, picking up duties he once held with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers.
Speculation was rampant as to the reasons and method behind his departure. Would Frazier return to the Bills and his previous role with the team? Was it a philosophical impasse between Frazier and McDermott? After yet another playoff collapse (though one in 2022 that rightfully can be traced back to other circumstances) was it simply time to move on, thus Frazier and McDermott had a mutual parting of ways void on a dismissal? And what about what was likely the impending loss of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds — did Frazier take exception to the idea at any cost? Was it due to issues completely separate from football, such as family or health? And so on it went, as fans latched on to one idea or another.
Simply put, Leslie Frazier’s departure has been a mystery. At least that was the case until this week, when news broke via Josh Alper with NBC Sports, stating:
“Frazier attended the ‘Coach Accelerator’ program at last week’s league meetings, which allowed him and other coaches to spend time with the team owners who will be making hiring decisions down the line.”
So now we understand quite a bit more about Frazier’s departure — that it was his decision to step down from his position with the Buffalo Bills. He hopes to become a head coach, and decided “Coach Accelerator” program best-positions him to find an opportunity in 2024 and beyond. Frazier is hopeful his opportunity to interview for a vacant head-coaching job next offseason materializes, but went on to state to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated that:
“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.”
Additionally, Frazier — who’s currently 64 years old — feels greater urgency to advocate on his behalf given his age, and the current trend in the NFL to hire younger, relatively unknown coordinators into head-coaching positions.
An esteemed NFL veteran and coach in the league, Leslie Frazier was defensive coordinator for the Bills from 2017 until 2019. Ahead of the 2020 NFL season, Frazier was promoted to assistant head coach, a position he held in tandem with his role as defensive coordinator until stepping down following the end of Buffalo’s 2022 season. Frazier was previously the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-2013.
Between now and next offseason, Frazier plans to attend Organized Team Activities and training camps of multiple teams, while also using this time to refocus and recharge ahead of a return to coaching in 2024.
If there was any doubt or desire for a reunion next spring, it stands to reason that regardless of what happens for Buffalo in 2023, Frazier has understandably moved on to pursue new opportunities in lieu of a return to the Bills’ sideline.