Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's been another fine 24 hours in Viking land, as we've already gotten our requisite drama for the week out of the way. The firing of Brad Childress, regardless of what you think of the timing, is basically the final cherry on what will certainly go down as one of the most spectacularly failed seasons in the 50-year history of the Minnesota Vikings franchise.
Many of us, myself included, believed that 2010 could be an amazing season for this Minnesota Viking team. Basically, we were getting the band back together, the talent was in place, and the Minnesota Vikings were going to capitalize on the success of 2009. Instead, what we got was a combination of drama, disarray, decline, and desperation the likes of which I don't believe any NFL team has ever had to overcome simultaneously.
From Sidney Rice not getting his injured hip taken care of in January when he got hurt to the precipitous decline of Brett Favre to the entire Randy Moss debacle and getting pummeled in embarrassing fashion by your two biggest rivals in consecutive weeks, I find it hard to believe that any 3-7 team in the history of the National Football League has managed to hold on to the headlines the way the 2010 Minnesota Vikings have. A season that started with a ton of promise and potential has now been reduced to a team playing for an interim head coach and gunning for draft position rather than making a push at the post-season.
Since Zygi Wilf couldn't fire all the players or anything like that, the axe came down on the one guy that could most easily stick his neck on the chopping block, and that was head coach Brad Childress. Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear. . .neither I, nor anybody else, would wish ill on Childress the person or anything like that. He might even be an interesting guy to sit down and have a beer with and just yak about football for a while, and the guy has a son over in Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, which garners a ton of respect from me. He's also a pretty decent evaluator of talent. . .the cupboard here in Minnesota isn't exactly bare or anything as far as talent is concerned. But, in the end, there were a few different things that brought about the fall of the house of Chilly.When Brad Childress first took the job with the Minnesota Vikings after the 2005 season ended with the firing of Mike Tice, he talked about a "culture of accountability." This was a team coming off of a few years of incidents like the Whizzinator, the Love Boat, and E.J. Henderson (along with two other people) getting in a fight outside of a club in Minneapolis. At first, it seemed like a really good idea, too. . .in Childress' first pre-season with the Vikings, WR Koren Robinson, a multiple DUI offender and a player that had gone to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner not six months previous, got caught drunkenly whipping down Minnesota highways at nearly 100 miles an hour in an effort to get back to the Vikings' facilities before curfew. Childress had said that the players were going to be held accountable, and sure enough Robinson was out of a job within a week. It was, even in retrospect, a good move by Brad Childress, and it sent a message to the players that off-field garbage wouldn't be tolerated. For the most part, there really haven't been any serious off the field issues since Brad Childress took over, and that's something he deserves to be complimented on.
But that same level of accountability obviously did not extend onto the field, as we've seen. The contrast in this can be seen in the Vikings' two most prominent offensive players, quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson. We've seen, in the past, where Adrian Peterson has fumbled and been replaced for long stretches of time by Chester Taylor as a sort of discipline. However, the "culture of accountability" was never extended to Brett Favre, whether it was showing up for training camp or being held accountable for interceptions and turning the ball over. Yes, Favre is a legend and everything and gave us a truly memorable, magical season in 2009 that none of us will be forgetting any time soon. But, ultimately, Brad Childress fell victim to the same thing as coaches like Mike Sherman and Eric Mangini fell victim to prior to him. . .an unwillingness to hold Brett Favre to the same standards for production as the rest of the players on his roster. Honestly, how many times this year should #4, realistically, have been pulled from ball games?
Here's another question. . .if I would have told you going into the season that, after 10 games, Adrian Peterson would have 242 total touches, nearly 1300 yards, eight touchdowns and zero fumbles, you probably would have believed that, right? Now, what if I had told you that through ten games, Peterson would have zero fumbles. . .and the Minnesota Vikings would still lead the NFL in turnovers and have the worst turnover differential in the NFL? Yeah, you would have slapped me upside the head and said I was crazy. . .but, yet, that's where we are right now. Of Minnesota's 25 turnovers, Favre has been credited with 22, Toby Gerhart somehow has two (despite only touching the football 37 times), and Percy Harvin has one.
Could this season have gone differently. . .and by "differently," I mean "better". . .if the Vikings hadn't sent the three wise guys to Mississippi to pull Favre off of the porch and bring him back here? Would starting Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback in 2010 have allowed this team to fulfill some of the promise they started the season with? Well, before you jump on the "no way, Tarvaris Jackson sucks and has always sucked and will always suck" bandwagon that so many seem to occupy, ponder this for a moment.
This season, in 327 pass attempts, Brett Favre has thrown the ball to the other team 17 times. That's one interception every 19.2 pass attempts. Tarvaris Jackson, in 551 career pass attempts, has thrown 18 interceptions, which averages to one pick thrown every 30.6 attempts. Even if you take out the "garbage time" numbers that he may have racked up in 2009 and the one appearance he made in 2010, you still get 18 interceptions in 524 pass attempts, which is one for every 29.1 throws.
Is Tarvaris Jackson ever going to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? Probably not. But Jackson, for the most part, seems to realize this, and seems to know his limitations. Brett Favre's biggest problem this season is that he thinks he's Brett Favre.
Do I think this team is 3-7 with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback this season? Probably not. But even if we play Jackson at this point, it really won't matter, to be honest. Why? Because he's not under contract for next season, either. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if nothing changes between now and 1 March, the only quarterback on the Minnesota Vikings' roster will be young Joe Webb. He was our sixth-round pick out of Alabama-Birmingham in this past year's draft, and was originally thought of so highly as a quarterback by the Vikings that, on draft day, it was immediately declared that the team was moving him to wide receiver. When Brad Childress said that the Vikings were going "all in" on the 2010 season, he meant it. . .and the incredible lack of foresight in roster planning is going to, in all likelihood, make the next couple of seasons pretty tough ones for us in Minnesota.
Ultimately, Brad Childress' stubbornness, inflexibility, and unwillingness to adjust his scheme to his team's talent, along with his various standards for one particular player and his amazing short-sightedness in assembling the Vikings' roster, led to his downfall in Minnesota. He got one incredible season out of Brett Favre with those standards, and thought that he could get away with a second, but he could not.
I, personally, wish Coach Childress the best of luck in his career after the Minnesota Vikings, regardless of what path that career takes. Lord knows that, thanks to the extension he signed last year, he's getting a decent amount of change from Zygi Wilf to chill out and do nothing, if he so chooses. But his time in Minnesota had run its course, and the Vikings had to take a new direction.
Brad Childress has been the only coach in Minnesota since this website came online back in July of 2006. Heck, the first two weeks of the site or so were devoted to talking about the aforementioned incident with Koren Robinson. While this season has been a disappointment, I'm also excited to see what direction this franchise takes from here. We're more than likely going to be drafting us one of those hot-shot, young, "franchise quarterbacks" that all the kids are raving on about today, and teaming him up with the best running back in football in Adrian Peterson, one of the most dynamic players in the game in Percy Harvin, and hopefully a reasonably-priced Sidney Rice will be along for the ride as well.
No fair jumping off of the bandwagon now, folks. . .we're not going into a ditch or anything, we're just pulling over at the nearest 7-11 for cherry Slurpees and Slim Jims. Here's hoping that all of you stay along for the ride.