Bills DC Leslie Frazier decides to take year off from coaching

INDIANAPOLIS -- Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is taking a year off from coaching, the team announced Tuesday.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at the NFL combine that Frazier reached out last week to say that he wanted to take a step back. Frazier clarified to the Bills that he did not want to retire and was sure about returning to coaching.

"It's tough. It's a hard business as we know. There's a lot of scrutiny on it, and there's a lot of hours, a lot of time put in and, and, again, not speaking for Leslie, but sometimes you may just want to take a breath for a minute," Beane said. "Again, that would be for him to say, but he was very adamant that he's not gonna retire. My two cents, just wanted to take a step back this season."

Beane said that to his knowledge, it has nothing to do with Frazier's health and that he did not believe it was involved in the decision.

Frazier, 63, plans to return for the 2024 season, according to the team, but Beane said that they weren't sure if his return would definitely be with the Bills.

"We'll miss him. I thought he did a really good job with our defense," coach Sean McDermott said. "It's a long and hard season. So, he decided to take a year off here. We want the best for him."

When it comes to filling the role, the possibility has been left open for McDermott to call the defensive plays. The team is still working through possibilities and did not have any interviews set up with outside candidates. McDermott reiterated multiple times that they were evaluating and figuring out the best plan for the defense.

McDermott said "we'll see" when asked if Frazier would consult on the defense in 2023.

The Bills also have two former defensive coordinators on staff in addition to McDermott -- senior defensive assistant/defensive line coach Eric Washington and recently hired senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb.

Beane and McDermott have "had multiple conversations" since learning of Frazier's plans, the general manager said. "We feel very confident in what [McDermott] would do and how he would handle it."

Frazier has been the Bills' defensive coordinator since he was hired by McDermott in 2017. The Buffalo defense has been one of the best in the league over the past six years. Since 2017, the Bills have led the league in yards allowed (315 per game) and have been second in takeaways (158).

During that time, Frazier has interviewed for several NFL head-coaching jobs. He was named the Bills' assistant head coach in 2020.

Frazier was the Minnesota Vikings' head coach from 2010 to 2013, initially taking over on an interim basis. He had a 21-32-1 record.

The former defensive back will be inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame class of 2023 for his time at Alcorn State. He also played in the NFL for five seasons, including on the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears defense.