1-23-03, 7:20 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
This is how much Buddy Ryan thinks of Leslie Frazier, the new Bengals defensive coordinator.
Frazier, 43, played cornerback on Ryan's famed Chicago Bears' defense of 1985, but on this second quarter punt in that season's Super Bowl against New England, Frazier was the hold-up man on the outside who ran a punt fake reverse.
Frazier's career ripped apart with his knee on the SuperDome rug when he planted and his leg gave way. Frazier never played another snap in the NFL and the Bears specials teams coach almost didn't live to see the next because a bunch of Bears had to get Ryan away from the guy before he did him bodily harm.
"I would have got him, too," Ryan said. "But someone stepped on my wires (to his headset). It was just stupid."
Ryan, one of his other mentors, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, and former teammate Andre Waters file this scouting report on Frazier: Disciple of pressure schemes, relates well with players, one of the nicest guys in the league, can't dance.
"I could talk all day about Leslie Frazier," Ryan says. "I watched him coach at Illinois and he did a great job with the Eagles. The Bengals are going to be a better team with him."
Johnson thinks he's ready to call a game after spending four years next to him on the sidelines.
"I'm sure he'll be able to do it on Game Day. He's paid his dues," Johnson says. "He understands it pretty well. He's been right next to me on the sidelines. I prefer it down there. I get a better feel for the flow of the game and it's easier to talk to players."
Waters, the former long-time Eagles safety, met him when Frazier was trying a comeback with Ryan in Philadelphia 15 years ago. His reconstructed knee didn't make the training-camp cut, but the two have remained friends.
"They don't make very many Leslie Fraziers," Waters says. "From the first time I met him, he was a genuine guy. He'd take the time to talk to you and listen. He's a Christian guy, the kind of guy who'd give you his last nickel if you needed to eat."
But can he coach? With three Pro Bowlers in the Eagles secondary (cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor and free safety Brian Dawkins) Johnson says he can.
"He's a very intelligent guy. He really gets along well with players," Johnson says. "He's got a good rapport with them. He's low-key, but they respect him because he played the game. It's a good combination."
When Ryan set the league on fire with his 46 defense, the prerequisite was man-to-man coverage. Even though the 6-2 Frazier wasn't all that fast, he could cover. He didn't make it just on natural talent as a free-agent out of tiny Alcorn State, and Johnson thinks he does an excellent job transplanting those savvy intangibles to players.
"He's a smart guy, that's why we kept him," Ryan says. "He could get his hands on guys and re-direct them. He knew what he was doing out there."
One of Frazier's 20 career interceptions has stayed with Ryan all these years.
"The best interception I ever saw in all the years I was in the league," Ryan says of the day Frazier skied over Green Bay's John Jefferson. "You've got to get a tape because I can't explain it. He went over the receiver and he caught the ball as he was going head first back to the ground."
Frazier has clearly proven himself as a position coach, and Waters thinks he has proven he can coordinate in a nine-year head-coaching run at NAIA Trinity in Illinois that ended in 1996. Frazier began the program and when he left, they named the field after him.
"That should tell you about the impact the guy can have," says Waters, who is the defensive coordinator of the new program at Division II St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C.
"He was running a whole program and I don't care at what level it is. That's harder than being a coordinator. And you were doing it with guys not highly recruited. I think he's overdue for his chance and I think he'll make a great head coach some day. He was the kind of guy you wanted to play hard for even when you were on the field with him because you didn't want to let him down."
There is only one thing he can't do, according to Waters' scouting report. Dance. Check out the Bears' Super Bowl video.
"Terrible," Waters says.
The Bengals don't want him to dance. They just want him to teach his players to. **
COMING FRIDAY:** Geoff Hobson's Q and A with the Bengals' new defensive coordinator.