After yet another telling and stale loss attributable to inept offensive playcalling and execution, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress was asked whether now was the time to make changes. His response, predictably, was that the offense was just a play or two away from being a very good offense.
Stop me if you've heard that line before.
Better yet, let me stop myself. Not only have Vikings' fans heard that line numerous times over the past five seasons, they have heard that line numerous times this year. And, as we near the conclusion of year five of the Vikings' three-year pledge to return the team to Super Bowl contention, year one of the sorry plan suddenly looks more promising than does the present.
What's worse than the play on the field, however, is the coaching at the helm. Childress' comment that he intended to stand pat with a lineup filled with players that he believes can "get it done," misapprehends the thrust of the question which is whether Chilly intends to change things from either the personnel side or the coaching side to give the Vikings their best opportunity to win.
It's one thing to lose without talent. It's quite another to take a 9-7 team that, in 2005, arguably played a tougher schedule and had less physical talent at key positions and to turn that team into a losing team. That speaks volumes about the coaching. The Vikings are losing not because they do not have the ability to win, but because they are encumbered with an egomaniacal and myopic coach intent on shoving square pegs into smaller round holes and professing ignorance--behind the security of a five-year contract--as to why the endeavor continues to fail.
Childress is intent on running a version of the West Coast offense never before seen--a version that makes the 49er's version of West Coast offense look more like the old Houston Oilers' four-receiver offense or the Don Coryell offenses in San Diego.
Chilly, of course, has a rejoinder, if not a very satisfactory one. Contrary to his pre-season self-congratulations on putting this team together, Childress now contends that some of his players don't fit the system that he is running. Yet, despite this insistance, Chilly insists on running that system rather than modifying the system to meet the personnel at his avail.
It should be no surprise that Chilly is putting the lion's share of the blame for his team's poor performance in his system on his players, a la Glen Mason. After all, that's been his M.O. since the current losing skid began.
Three weeks ago, Brad Johnson was the culprit. Last week, Childress offered up that rookie offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a few plays. The insinuation was that those were the critical plays--the plays that cost the Vikings a victory in spite of the genius of Chilly's calls. Childress refused to elaborate, pretending to stand by his coordinator who is too beholden to Childress to be able to note that Childress retains full control over the final playcalling or that Childress continues to call one of three plays--Chester Taylor off tackle left, Johnson two-yard pass right, or duck to opposing safety.
Yesterday, Chilly outdid himself, suggesting that the defense was as culpable in the loss as was the Vikings' pathetic offensive scheme. "Those guys have a few things to improve on as well," Chilly commented, apparently intent on fomenting a division between the offense and defense that he claims does not currently exist.
Ultimately, Chilly might be right about some things. He might be right that he doesn't have the personnel for his system (whatever that is). He might also be right that the offense will improve, especially if his view of what constitutes improvement is the ability to find the endzone from first and goal at the three. And he might be right that the defense, which continues to play far too soft in the passing game, has sizeable room for improvement.
In the final analysis, however, it is utter folly to suggest that this Vikings' team is failing for the reasons that Chilly cites. The team is failing because it continues to lead the league in fewest points per yard gained, because it continues to be among the league leaders in three and outs, because the offense continues to sputter after the opening drive, and because the offensive playcalling does not work. And it's the head coach's job to make it work.
Mike Tice did it with less. Are we to buy that a self-proclaimed offensive guru is unable to do so with more against even lesser comptettition? If so, then surely the end is nigh.
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