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Gus Frerotte, Tarvaris Jackson, Brad Childress, and the Firing Range

I told you yesterday in my late update that I had had a long day on Tuesday, but not the kind of "long day" that you look back on and are glad it's over.

See, as a military member, I have a lot of things that I have to do in addition to my "regular job" of being an instructor in order to keep things running smoothly. Some require a couple of hours to take care of, some require a day, some require a few days, and they usually involve various types of training. However, yesterday was almost like a holiday on the military calendar for ol' Gonzo. Why?

Because yesterday was "M-16 Qualification Day." It isn't a national holiday, but by God, it ought to be.

Yesterday, my day consisted of learning everything there was to know about the M-16 rifle. . .the different parts, the firing procedures, the different firing positions, and so forth. We took the weapons apart, put them back together, and learned about each part, inside and out. After that, it was out to the rifle range for practice and qualification.

The process at the range begins with what's called "zeroing" your rifle. Basically, you shoot 5 groups of 4 shots a piece, and these groups of shots are used to make "sight adjustments" to the weapon. . .if you're firing too high or too far to one side or something like that. After the zeroing process, you get to fire 30 practice rounds in groups of 6. This ensures that everything is working okay with your rifle. Then, the qualification process begins. . .50 shots, and depending on what classification you are, you have to hit the targets a certain number of times to be qualified.

It's actually quite similar to football, when you think about it. (See, I'm going somewhere with this. . .just hang on.) Your zeroing process is a lot like mini-camps and training camp, getting the basics in order and stuff like that. The practice rounds are more or less like the pre-season games. . .an opportunity to implement what you've already started working on. Finally, we get to the qualification, where things get to be "for real" and there's no realistic chance of going back and starting over.

Well, a weird thing happened yesterday out on the range. There were about 10 of us out there at different positions doing our qualifications, and when we got to the qualification part, one of the females that we had out there with us had her weapon constantly jam up on her, leaving her unable to fire the appointed number of rounds in the allotted time. Bad juju, right?

Our instructor did the best he could to come up with a solution. He had brough an extra M-16 along with him in the bus for just such an situation. He put a few rounds into a magazine, fired them at a practice target, did the best he could to get it zeroed in, and gave it to the airman to use. Sufficient to say, she fired badly and, though she DID reach her qualification mark, she scraped it pretty closely.

How does this finally relate back to football? Because the same principle that we're seeing happen with the Minnesota Vikings right now.

You don't go into battle with a weapon that you don't have faith in.

Now, this can be applied in two ways. . .the first being the obvious one, the switch from Tarvaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte at quarterback. Brad Childress, who talked all off-season about how improved Tarvaris Jackson was and how he was going to be a bigger part of the team and this and that and blah blah blah. . .we know now that that was a bunch of crap. Brad Childress doesn't (and probably didn't) really believe in Tarvaris Jackson or his abilities. He simply stood in front of you and me and reporters and Viking fans everywhere and said those sort of things to soothe his own inadequacies.

Someone that had faith in his quarterback wouldn't have called the kind of football games that Brad Childress has called over the first two weeks of the 2008 NFL season. And if he didn't have that faith in Tarvaris Jackson from the word "go" , as far back as the pre-season or even mini-camp, then he owed it to himself, to Tarvaris Jackson, and to the Vikings' franchise to step up and admit as much, and to get the Vikings to go another direction at the quarterback position. But he didn't. He's bought into his own hype about his ability to develop a quarterback and thought he could just throw Jackson out there with THIS game plan and THIS scheme and get the job done.

Really, what quarterback has Childress ever developed? And please, PLEASE don't give me Donovan F. McNabb. Color me crazy, but McNabb seems to be doing just fine without him, thanks.

So now, after an 0-2 start, Brad Childress has given into the most basic, yet most powerful of human desires. . .the desire to save his own ass. And as of now, he thinks that Gus Frerotte gives him the best chance to do that. Don't get me wrong. . .I'm never, EVER going to cheer for my team to lose. . .but I'm not sure if I'd be totally heartbroken if Gus didn't turn out to be a knight in shining armor for this team, because it would mean that Childress would be on a bus out of town after the season finale against the New York Football Giants.

To a lesser extent, the theory also applies to the gameplans that Childress has given the offense in the first two games of this season. Clearly, Childress didn't have faith in Jackson to execute the entire playbook, which is nothing short of mind-numbing at this point. Basically, if I can slip a movie reference in here, Childress sent Tarvaris Jackson out into the arena to face Maximus Decimus Meridius. . .and basically armed him with a spork. If the playcalling doesn't change, it won't make any difference who's calling the signals. . .this offense is going to continue to be horrible.


I know that there are a lot of video gamers out there among you, so let me put it this way. To the right, you can see an approximation of the Vikings' offensive playbook over the first two games of the 2008 season. You can see that there's a run to the left for Adrian Peterson, a run to the right for Adrian Peterson, and some very basic pass plays. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Tecmo Bowl Offense. Hell, it's not even the Super Tecmo Bowl Offense. . .Super Tecmo Bowl gave you EIGHT plays to choose from, which we all know is way too many. And in the second half of the Colts game, Tony Dungy was picking Brad Childress' play every. . .single. . .time. And we know what happens in Tecmo Bowl when you guess your opponent's play, don't we?

So, don't go into battle with a weapon you don't have faith in. . .whether it's war or football or paintball or even a battle of the wits. Maybe Brad Childress will show a little more faith in his weapon now that he's gotten a new one. If he does, that's really a sad, sad testament to his abilities as a head football coach.