When Leslie Frazier arrived in Baltimore this offseason to take over as the new secondary coach, he first went to work learning the defense.
As he pored over the scheme and got a grasp on the terminology, Frazier had some flashbacks to his playing days with the Chicago Bears. Frazier was a starting cornerback for the 1985 Bears – a team that won Super Bowl XX and is widely considered one of the best defenses of all time – and he was coached by legendary Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan.
When Frazier studied the Ravens defense, he could see Ryan’s fingerprint had made its way to Baltimore.
“There are some things that are remnants of what we did when I was in Chicago,” Frazier said. “Even the way we would do certain things, they are still within the system. That helps me from a familiarity standpoint. That is probably the one constant.”
The Ravens have a few connections to those '85 Bears – most notably is that Buddy’s Ryan’s son, Rex, spent 10 years as an assistant coach in Baltimore, including four seasons as the defensive coordinator. Hall of Fame Bears linebacker Mike Singletary also coached the linebackers in Baltimore from 2003-2004.
Even though Ryan and Singletary have been gone for years, their influence is still evident. And now Frazier is finding a way to make his mark on the Ravens defense.
“Leslie has fit in absolutely as expected, which means he’s fit in just great,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a great coach, great person, excellent teacher and [has] very good demeanor for those guys back there. I think for everybody, he really has a teacher’s demeanor. He’s like a professor back there, but at the same time he has the ability to motivate and to push guys.”
The veteran coach was brought in to help upgrade a secondary that struggled at times last year. The group gave up too many big plays and ranked last in the NFL in interceptions.
Forcing turnovers has been a focus for the Ravens all offseason, and Frazier has implemented drills to stress the importance of a ball-hawking defense.
“That is what you do: you achieve what you emphasize,” Frazier said. “We have always heard that before. That is what we have been doing: emphasizing taking the ball away on defense. Hopefully, it will pay dividends for us when the season begins.”
Several players have praised Frazier for the way he has commanded the group since being hired. He’s come to Baltimore with instant credibility as a former NFL player and head coach, and the Ravens are confident he’ll be able to make a difference with his group this year.
“I think the experience really helps us and Leslie is just a great coach,” Harbaugh said. “Leslie’s a head coach in this league. He’s been a head coach, and he’ll be a head coach again. To have that kind of coaching talent on the back end is really a big plus for us.”