The Minnesota Vikings have lost two of their last three games and even though they’ve clinched the NFC North division, a sinking feeling is settling in amongst the fans. Debate rages over Brett Favre’s rebuke of coach Childress’ “stream of consciousness” and all is not well in the land of Norseman. Two games are left in the regular season; first against the clawless Chicago Bears and then annual seasonal nemesis of the New York Giants (fighting for their playoff lives), and the good folks cheering for the purple wonder if this dream season is starting to fall apart?
Offensive line play and the coach's authority
First off, the offense line play has been horrible of late. Rather than dominate, or even most of the time win the battles, the linemen are getting beat in pass blocking and stood up in a rush blocking. Watch the next two games when we run the football. Look to see where the offense of linemen end up after their first few steps. It is usually the line of scrimmage, give or take a yard, instead of 4 or 5 yards downfield. That cannot all be blamed on Sullivan either. the ability to rush block greatly affects Adrian Peterson's or Chester Taylor's yard per carry stat. Going over to football outsiders, about the only place I know that tracks offensive line stats, it shows the offensive line ranked 24th in rushing.
Brett Favre, and the Vikings have been audibling out of runs. Brad Childress has been open with his philosophy about wanting to run first and run often. He believes that is the way to win ballgames consistently and for a long time. But yet the Vikings seem to be throwing more and more. That is not such a big deal if your offense is geared around it, or if you do not have the running backs to sustain that type of power offense, but that is not the case here. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are two of the best backs in the league. When have the Vikings consistently had hundred plus yard rushers week to week? Are you going to tell me it is because Matt Birk is now in Baltimore or that Ryan Cook is a better rush blocker than Phil Loadholt? Everybody else on that line is the same. The difference is the person who elects to audible out of the run play.
You will counter that it is Brad Childress that gave him the authority to do such. How true you are. The whole idea is to give Brett the ability to take advantage of what the defense will give him. An example would be if there are 10 guys stacked in the box, then Sidney Rice or Bernard Berrian will be covered one-on-one streaking down the sidelines or running a post. That is the idea, but is Brett Favre taking what the defense is giving him, or is he audibling out to something he is a whole lot more comfortable with? He likes the spotlight and he even admitted that he didn't come to Minnesota just to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson.
Adam Warwas over at Vikings Gab Road wrote a great blog today comparing the run versus the pass. We have all heard how each team desires a balanced offense, where we run 50% of the time and throw the other 50% of the time. That's why the Vikings were said to be that one good quarterback away from making it to the Super Bowl, one that could throw and achieve that balanced attack that seems to be the golden key for success. Adam goes on to break down the stats of run versus pass for each and every game the Vikings played this season. There are some surprising results. Of the three games lost, the running percentage has been under 35%. Every other game, all the wins, it was well above that mark.
If you set that percentage at 40% or greater there is an interesting result.
Games with the least 40% rushing the Vikings record is 10-0 with an average point difference of 16.6.
Games with less than 40% rushing the Vikings record is 1-3 with an average point difference of -9.75.
As we have learned, Brad Childress has tried to remove Brett Favre from the game at least twice (Six 'events' between Childress and Favre) before the Carolina game, and obviously during the third quarter of the Carolina game caught by an NBC cameraman in all its glory, what do the other players think? Coach Childress has allowed a player to undermine his authority. How will the other players react? Will they take this as an example of an acceptable behavior in the future when they don't get what they want? Will they just keep on playing and refused to be benched? I will argue that that is more damaging for the Vikings in the long term, much less in the short term. This does bother me and Erin McLaughlin at Bleacher Report. Doesn't this bother anybody else?
This is the beginning of the bad Brett and the explosion within the organization. It is taking place in slow motion and I am seeing the fireball expand and shrapnel fly in all directions. Knowing that there will be blood and carnage shattering through what were moments before, thoughts of blissful Super Bowl victory parties. Dissension, mistrust, lack of faith and anarchy are all seeded on television for all to see. It was if we saw him riding his tractor with the seed attachment in back working its magic to produce a much promised reward.
Could this just be an aberration, a blip, or stupid thinking by a hapless coach? The argument can be made that way, but this is the same guy that pushed all in to get Brett Favre. Brad Childress is also the coach that gave Brett far the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage as he saw fit, even if that means changing to a Favre centered offensive game plan instead of an Adrian Peterson featured attack.