We last left the Curse of 1998 series with the firing of Mike Tice, perhaps the head coaching era with the most amount of scandal in Vikings history.
It was at this point the Vikings continued their descent into Inferno, with new Owner Zigi Wilf’s actions signifying the crossing into Dante’s 5th circle of Hell, Anger (or Wrath).
The strict, 77-page code of conduct document given to personnel after the Love Boat and the eventual firing of Tice signified that Wilf was not a happy man, especially as the Vikings had yet to see their performances come close to being that of a contender.
The time was ripe for change, and Brad Childress was the successor to Tice. Childress was the Anti-Tice in almost every way.
Where Tice was (or acted like) a players coach, going so far as to address Randy Moss as my “dog” on Tice’s radio show, Childress ruled the locker room from day 1 with an iron fist.
Tice was a good ol’ boy and a goober (like a modern-day dad who uses the words “cap” and “for real”), whereas Childress was a Game of Thrones-level tyrant, albeit one lacking the proper intelligence to actually rule.
Throughout his tenure Childress’ stubbornness would eventually alienate every facet of the franchise, bringing a dour, depressing, conflict-laden era to the organization.
His talents as a personnel manager were also lacking.
Childress was at odds with the players privately and publicly throughout his tenure, creating locker-room strife on countless occasions. Percy Harvin later clashed with Childress on the practice field. Ben Leber and Matt Birk didn’t like him, Randy Moss, back with the Vikings in 2010, complained to ownership shortly after his 4th (and what would be final) game back.
Brad Childress’ play calling, well, that sucked too.
I’m sure each of you have your own favorite play of his, but I find peak Childress play-calling in this travesty from October 8th, 2006 while playing the 0-4 Lions at home.
Your Minnesota Vikings have the ball on the Lion’s 34-yard line with 9 minutes, 45 seconds left in the contest, are down one point, and are sitting at 4th and one.
It would have been a 51-yard field goal, in a dome, for which Ryan Longwell (LONG-WELL) has hit 18 of 34 in his career. NFL teams on average at this time are 65% to convert 4th and one. Chester Taylor is 3 for 4 in his career on 4th and one. QB Brad Johnson is 6 for 7 on throws on 4th and one, and is 11 for 11 on QB sneaks on 4th and one.
What will Brad Childress do?
Brad Childress does not like the forward pass. Brad Childress does not like risk. Brad Childress does not like fun. Brad Childress does not like scoring points.
Brad Childress... Has called for Longwell to pooch punt the ball in what is, by at least one metric, ‘The saddest punt of all-time’.
This play call is ugly enough to drag the Vikings into the 6th circle of Inferno, Heresy. Brad Childress does not care how football is supposed to be played. Brad Childress only cares about how Brad Childress wants football to be played.
He is a heretic.
The amazing thing about this play is, and I shit you not, the Vikings won.
I don’t know if this says more about the Vikings' resiliency, or the Lions' inadequacy (they did finish 3-13 after all). Longwell’s punt went for 27 yards, giving the Lions terrible field position, and the Vikings got the ball back after a short possession. Longwell then hit a 20-yarder AND the Vikings got a pick-6 in the final minutes that brought the final score to 26-17.
The 2006 season would finish a dour 6-10, setting the Vikings to select 7th in the following draft. Rick Spielman, the Vikings burgeoning General Manager, acquired perhaps the most remarkable Viking to ever grace the Metrodome’s turf.
What Randy Moss was to the passing game, Adrian Peterson was to the run. Like Moss, Peterson would go on to become the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, fulfilling a self-prophecy made during preseason. Peterson would also be named Pro Bowl MVP.
We’ll stop just long enough to gawk fondly at the NFL Single Game Rushing record which Peterson broke in week 9 of his legendary 2007 season.
Many pundits at the time were licking their lips to see Peterson face off against LaDainian Tomlinson, who was thoroughly outclassed ‘All Day’ by the record-setting 296-yard, 3 TD, 9.86 yds/carry performance Peterson put in.
The 2007 season finished 8-8, which is amazing (not in a good way) considering the explosion onto the scene of such a franchise-altering player.
While it was Peterson’s year, it was still Childress’s team.
It must be remembered that Peterson was far from the only star on the team. The likes of Chad Greenway, Kevin and Pat Williams, Matt Birk, Darren Sharper, and Steve Hutchinson were also on the roster.
Things were building again, and building to something special (or whatever adjective you want to use).
The one positive that Vikings fans do have to realize here is that while nearly everything about Childress sucked, one cannot argue his talents as a disciplinarian. He did bring a professional culture to the wider organization, and he did stop the off-field antics that so defined the Tice era.
They were the only things that kept him from getting fired, but the time was now for Childress to start getting results.
The window was opening, and 2008 and 2009 would define the Childress Era forever.
Stay tuned for Part 5 of this 7-part series.