Sunday, September 09, 2007

Vikings Pound Harrington and Falcons, Childress Grouchy

The news out of Winter Park last week that made but a minor splash was the Vikings' contention that the collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River was behind sluggish ticket sales. Responding to inquiries about a possible blackout, misappointed Vikings PR Director, Lester Bagley, contended that the collapse of the I-35 bridge had caused Vikings' fans to reconsider their plans to attend games this season and had imperiled the televising of today's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Apparently, Bagley was not privy to either the Vikings' recent uninspiring play or the Viking organizations' arrogant attempt to cajole fans wishing to see the Minnesota-Green Bay game into purchasing tickets for the far-less-appealing matchup against the Joey Harrington-led Atlanta Falcons. Had Bagley had either bit of information, surely, as a well-paid PR director, he would have put better words to his explanation of the Vikings' lackluster ticket sales, perhaps offering a bit of institutional humility rather than yet another complaint from the Vikings' front office about the harm that the I-35 bridge collapse had wrought upon the Vikings.

Not to be outdone in the category of churlish comments was Brad Childress, responding to Vikings' sideline reporter Greg Coleman's patented softball questions. After Coleman essentially offered to get a room with Childress as a reward for Childress being "the first on to the field to congratulate Kenechi Udeze" for Udeze's late-game sack of Harrington, Childress' whining could be heard across the country. "At least we can put that question to rest now," Childress bitched, referring to questions about when we should expect Udeze to make the type of meaningful production one might expect from a first-round defensive end.

Never mind that Udeze still has only one sack in the past two years--one less than rookie backup defensive end Brian Robison had in his Vikings' debut against the Falcons--and that Udeze has zero sacks in the past two years at a meaningful juncture in a game. What is more interesting is the hint in Childress' boorish reply to Coleman that Childress was not all that pleased with today's outcome. The win, to be certain, was nice. But, for Childress, it appears, wins are far better when they come on his terms.

What went wrong for Childress today? Two things in particular. First, and most obvious, was that the Vikings once again won a game almost entirely on the strength of their defense. Unfortunately, that's not Childress' realm as the oversight of that unit belongs entirely to newly hired, soon-to-be-on-the-job-market Leslie Frazier. In fact, if not for the eternal hopelessness that is Joey Harrington, one might be tempted to argue that the Frazier-led Vikings' defense is already substantially better than the Mike Tomlin defense that propelled Tomlin to the head-coaching ranks after last season.

Alas, despite solid play from Robison and relatively good play from the Vikings' linebacking corps--two areas of concern against the pass last season--we will have to wait until at least next week to better assess the Vikings' defense. What we do know for certain, however, is that today's game could not have been won without a significant contribution from the defense, with the Vikings' offense contributing next to nothing yet again.

The other issue likely sticking in Childress' craw is the play of Adrian Peterson. While Childress undoubtedly is pleased that a player that he helped select high in this year's entry draft is already playing well, Childress seemed disappointed that the offense operated better with Peterson in the backfield than it did during Chester Taylor's brief stint in the game. An offense that operates equally under any running back would validate, at least in Chilly's mind, the offensive system that Chilly has put in place. That's not how things played out today, however, as Peterson clearly was the best offensive player on the field and the only player that made a difference in a Vikings' offense that continues to move with shackles draped over it.

In the end, the Vikings' won a game that they should have won and they did so with an impressive defensive showing and, all things considered, a marginally acceptable offensive showing. Now if only Chilly would speed up his evolution toward acknowledging that playing not to lose rather than to win is the formula for success in today's NFL, the Vikings might actually make a difference this year.

Up Next: Around the NFC.

18 comments:

MN said...

I miss Randy Moss, is that bad/

Holy Hitter said...

How can you even state something like this:
"The other issue likely sticking in Childress' craw is the play of Adrian Peterson. While Childress undoubtedly is pleased that a player that he helped select high in this year's entry draft is already playing well, Childress seemed disappointed that the offense operated better with Peterson in the backfield than it did during Chester Taylor's brief stint in the game."

There is no basis for it. In fact the offense operated just as well in Taylor's brief stint as it did all game long (obviously the one big play cannot be an indicator of the rest of the game). Taylor was just as effective as Peterson when he was in and the offense moved the ball similar distances before the passing game had us fall short (Sidney Rice 4 yd route when we needed 6 yards). I love Adrian Peterson, but this is all conjecture and your sandbagging of Childress is ridiculous.

Ryan said...

I agree with "holy hitter". I used to like reading your blog, but it's painful to do so now. Your endless rants against Childress don't generally seem to be much deeper than the fact that you just plain don't like him. The mere sight of him on television curls your toes and him speaking a sentence in an interview gives you ammunition for several paragraphs about how inept you think he is.

I'm not suggesting you "drink the purple Kool Aid" and completely ignore the faults of Brad Childress and the team. But I think it's somewhat sad that after the Vikings win a game (and looked pretty good doing so) you've devoted the bulk majority of your column to complaining about the interview Childress gave afterwards.

I also don't see what the problem is if the defense is the determining factor in Vikings victories. The offense merely needs to hold its own on the field for the Vikings to be successful this season. Take, for example, the Bears. They have demonstrated absolutely no offensive ability because of a mediocre running game and a quarterback who can't get it together. However, they are serious contenders for a division title.

Vikes Geek said...

Ryan,

As long as Childress continues to act boorish, I will continue to comment on his boorishness. When he changes, so will my coverage.

It's one thing to contend that the Bears are serious contenders in the NFC North on the strength of their defense. It's quite another, of course, to contend that the defense alone makes them a Super Bowl contender. It does not. The Bears made a big mistake in moving Jones in favor of Benson. Now, with even more pressure on Grossman, they are paying for that decision.

It isn't about drinking or not drinking purple kool-aid, it's about looking at the team for what it is. The defense looked good against a weak offense. Kudos to them. The offense looked putrid with the exception of a single run by Adrian Peterson. Against teams that have the ability to score--roughly seventy-five percent of the league--this offensive system will prove futile because it is predicated on being fatally cautious. And that's on Childress. In his surly post-game remarks, Childress suggested that, though "there is much work to do," things are going well with the offense. By what standard? You can talk about promise if you like, but that's quite different from talking about the present and how things are going today. Today, the Vikings get smoked by serious Super Bowl contenders. The only saving grace for the Vikings is that the vast majority of the contenders are in the AFC.

I understand that most Vikings' fans have short memories and are forgiving of the constant mistakes and hubris of recent teams. I'm not in that boat. If you can get your head around that, you can appreciate my perspective.

VG

Holy Hitter said...

VG-

I don't have a short memory. I realize that this team is far from beign a contender (at least until some type of passing game gains success, victory will be at the mercy of how the defense performs), but your criticizing of Childress goes beyond reason.

There is a difference between being a realist and being a pessimistic bore. Here is what I understand you saying. Yeah the defense was good, but that is to Frazier's credit and well maybe they arent that good because they played a crappy Falcon's offense. Our offense was terrible except for one play by Adrian Peterson.

Guess what, the Vikings are not going to be the Denny Green led offensive explosion of the late 90's early 00's. These Vikings are going to be more predicated upon the mid 80's type teams focused on defense and an alright offense. Do you remember the days of Tommy Kramer and Darrin Nelson, this offense at least has some excitement and hopefully Tarvaris can continue to progress in his understanding and decision making.

You could also be consistent. You criticize Childress in your main article for being boorish and basically not being all that excited about Adrian Peterson because he wanted Taylor to be succesfull, but then in your comments you state that the offense looked putrid. Which is it? I am guessing a team that has a running game that averages 5.34 yds per carry is never going to excite you.

Ryan said...

"It's one thing to contend that the Bears are serious contenders in the NFC North on the strength of their defense. It's quite another, of course, to contend that the defense alone makes them a Super Bowl contender. It does not."

I have to disagree. The defense/special teams have single-handedly carried that team through the season. There is not a single occasion I can think of where the offense of that team has been asked to come out to pick up the slack for the defense. They have never been asked to win a game that the defense wasn't already winning. Additionally, because of the weakness of the NFC, the Bears repeatedly face one of the easiest schedules in the entire NFL. Any contribution the Chicago offense makes is nice, obviously. But, generally, they are only expected to minimize their (Grossman's) mistakes.

"The offense looked putrid with the exception of a single run by Adrian Peterson."

What are you looking for out of the Vikings offense this year? I'm sorry, but I don't think offensive domination is a possibility considering that our team is so young/inexperienced. I'm not sure I understand the issue with the offensive production hinging on a single player and his performance. I can think of several other teams in the NFL who's offensive ability would be severely reduced if one player were to be removed from the equation. I really think this team is still searching for an identity on offense and if they find it in Peterson I have no problem with it, personally.

"In his surly post-game remarks, Childress suggested that, though "there is much work to do," things are going well with the offense. By what standard? You can talk about promise if you like, but that's quite different from talking about the present and how things are going today. Today, the Vikings get smoked by serious Super Bowl contenders."

I think that the standard is that they won the game. As I mentioned earlier, I don't expect that the Vikings will live to their potential this year. They probably will not make playoffs. My ability to accept that is probably the difference between the way that we're looking at the performance. It's very difficult to argue that there hasn't been improvements in the playcalling. A small victory, perhaps, but a victory regardless.

"Against teams that have the ability to score--roughly seventy-five percent of the league--this offensive system will prove futile because it is predicated on being fatally cautious. And that's on Childress."

Not to nit-pick, but I believe that play-calling duties have been turned over to Bevell.

I can understand your statements, if you're sick of the losing/miscues and your memory isn't as "short" as mine. I just wanted to make my point, I guess.

Pacifist Viking said...

VG, the larger point is, you're not criticizing Childress for what he is, but for what you imagine him to be.

I heard Childress answer Coleman's question on the radio--it was mild, in the same tone that he answers most questions. I didn't sense "whining" or "bitching" in it: you did, largely because you already dislike Childress and are looking for reasons to complain. Your dislike of Childress causes you, in my opinion, to misinterpret his words and demeanor. Childress has pretty much had the same monotone, even-keel, slightly moody and unhappy tone in all of his dealings with the media. And I've certainly never sensed satisfaction with anything the team is doing.

Furthermore, you are criticizing Childress strictly for your speculations into what he might be thinking. There are things Childress does that may be worth criticizing, but is it worth criticizing the thoughts you imagine he's having? And your speculation as to his thoughts is rather senseless, too--I don't really see a basis for your speculation. Childress knows that better players make an offense look better, and it has never appeared to me that Childress is bothered trying to win games with strong defense (when he came in, he didn't talk just about offense, but about building strong lines on offense and defense--based on those comments, I'd say Sunday's win fit into that claim about how he wants to build a football team). Think about it: you're not criticizing Childress himself, but Childress's imagined, made-up thoughts! That's pretty senseless.

So you can keep up the "just telling it like it is" attitude, but I think your own negative biases are preventing you from doing so (particularly when you say "The offense looked putrid with the exception of a single run by Adrian Peterson." Beyond that one play, Pterson had 103 yards on 19 carries. The offense was uneven, but the team showed an ability to control the line of scrimmage and run). At this point it's obvious you've made up your mind about Childress, and there's little that could change that (I find it difficult to imagine you enjoy rooting for the Vikings, since you must be rooting for Childress to fail; I, however, won't venture to speculate too much on what your thoughts might be). Let me add I'm not a giant Childress apologist--I'm just not convinced that 17 games is enough to assess his ability to turn the team into a winner. I'm happier with the direction of the team now, with a very strong defense, strong offensive line, and strong running game, than I was 3-4 years ago when it had a great passing game and atrocious defense. That team was more fun to watch, but it was further away from championship contention. I like the direction, and am not ready to give up on Childress yet.

Vikes Geek said...

Ryan,

The Bears have played one game this seasoon--and they lost. If you meant last year's Bears' team that's a different story. As I said, this year's team is a markedly different Bears' team than was last year's team which featured Jones as the primary back. Last year's team relied on solid running, solid kicking, special teams play, and defense. This year's team was to be more of the same. Benson, however, is half the player that Jones is, so the formula falls short.

As for the standard being simply whether a team won the game, that cannot be the case, not in the NFL. The standard is also how you stand up against the rest of the league. That's the measuring stick in the NFL. Nothing less. What difference does it make if you can beat the absolute dregs like Atlanta if you cannot stay on the field with teams like New England and struggle against teams like St. Louis?

What is the improvement in the playcalling this year? I see an improved performance by Jackson over last year's dismal showing and signs from Peterson, but little difference in the actual playcalling. The plan is still short on first, short on second, and hope for the best on third. And the results are what one would expect. The Vikings had zero--zero--red zone plays on Sunday. Only two teams could say that--the other being the Vikings' opponent. If you take that as a sign of improved playcalling you have a low standard for showing improvement and probably eternal patience.

If you don't expect the Vikings to "live [up] to their potential this year" how on earth do you reach your other conclusions about the team? What determines whether a team lives up to its potential?

VG

Vikes Geek said...

Pacifist,

I appreciate your ability to get inside my mind. Is your power of interpretation more keen than others or is it simply that you you are entitled to speculate where others are not? Childress himself admitted he was irked by the question Coleman and others posed regarding Udeze--or maybe you missed the pre- and post-game dustups with the local media regarding the Udeze line of questioning. That, unlike your observations about me here, does not require that I get inside Chilly's head.

VG

Pacifist Viking said...

Perhaps you missed this phrase?

"I, however, won't venture to speculate too much on what your thoughts might be."


It really doesn't change the fact that you are purely guessing at Childress's thoughts (in your speculation about why he's grumpy--that AP played well instead of Chester Taylor, that the team won with defense instead of offense). I'm simply saying you've got no basis for your speculation, and it makes your criticism seem more like opinionated tirade that reasoned critique.

Pacifist Viking said...

And my overall suggestion that you don't like Childress isn't based on any mind-reading, but on reading your blog regularly. I mean, that's true, right? Wouldn't a regular reader of your blog reasonably interpret that you don't like him?

I don't think I've speculated or imagined your thoughts; sorry if it appears I did. I was attempting to address what you actually wrote.

Vikes Geek said...

Pacifist,

I did not miss your comment. Of course, it's a bit like calling someone a jackass several times and then saying that you mean no offense.

You confuse my criticism of Childress and things that happen in the Vikings' organization for personal feelings on my part. I neither like nor dislike Brad Childress. I did not support his hiring because, as I contended at the time, he was inexperienced and far too arrogant regarding his coaching acumen for someone with his limited experience (I particularly appreciated his comment that he chose Minnesota--that came just before his explanation of why he chose Minnesota), but that says nothing of my views of him outside of football--I have none.

My only preference is that whoever is coaching the Vikings be able to see and address his own short-comings. Childress has done a great job recognizing his limitations regarding defense--or at least realizing that there are others capable of doing a very good job given some talent. Twice now, he has made good decisions hiring a defensive coordinator.

But defense isn't Chilly's baby. It's not what he came to Minnesota touting as his specialty. And that's why, I suspect, he simply refuses to let it go. It is why he refuses to bring in someone like Tom Moore, preferring, instead, to hover over an even more inexperienced coordinator whom he personally identified as a clone of himself. The results have been predictable.

In the end, I don't care if Mayor McCheese is the head coach, as long as the team improves. I'm not calling for Childress' head right now, but I will if this season ends worse than last season did. If there is noticeable improvement--and there should be given the improved talent on the team--Chilly gets more time. If not, why would any sane fan not be disgruntled with the direction of the team?

VG

pa viking said...

If our offense produced like the Colts and our defense continued at a high level, VG would still be bitchin' about something. With that being said, I still, in some twisted way, appreciate his gloom and doom point of view.

Our team has issues. It's a long season and it's only been one game. I'm still figuring a 7-9 season. VG, what kind of won/loss record will constitute the coach's head?

Vikes Geek said...

PA,

You're probably right. I'd probably find something to harp on if the Vikings went 15-1. I think that's a good thing, however, as it keeps complacency from setting in. Of course, when you're coming off a 6-10 season and showing some of the same tendencies that led you to the 6-10 record, there is more room for criticism.

Barring a three-win season, there's virtually no chance that the Vikings let Childress go after his second season. Wilf simply isn't going to eat that contract. Contract matters aside, it would be difficult to justify retaining a head coach that added talent for two straight seasons and actually did worse on the field in 2007 than in 2006. The Vikings look like a 7-9 or 8-8 team. That doesn't excite me as much as it does some other fans, but, if the team shows the ability to play with contenders this year with promise of clear improvement for next year, I'll live with it.

The difficulty is that, as much as we hear that it takes time to install a system and that Childress deserves time [no parameters applied by some] to make the necessary adjustments to his system, it was the Vikings' defense, much more so than it was the offense, that was the Vikings' weakness under Tice. Under Tomlin and now Frazier, the defense has had numerous personnel changes and improved dramatically. Under Childress and Bevell, the offense has been upgraded since Tice left town yet has stagnated. Even with the addition of Peterson, Jackson, Rice, and Wade, the offense failed to produce a single play in the red zone on Sunday. And, if you watched the game, you understand why that was the case--Childress and Bevell simply prefer a cautious offense. My opinion is that their form of caution is out-dated in today's NFL and will make it impossible for the team to keep up with the teams that they would have to beat to compete for a championship. Frankly, I do not think it is a matter of a lack of talent, despite some talent deficiencies on offense. Instead, I think it is more about Childress being risk-averse. Can Childress change? Of course. But his stubborn streak, like that of his predecessor, make that an iffy proposition.

VG

Pacifist Viking said...

When I say you don't like Childress, I mean you don't like him as Viking coach. However, look at your word choices to describe Childress and his actions here: "grouchy," "churlish," "whining," "bitched," "boorish." These are words to criticize personality, not coaching ability. But given how personality is tied up with coaching, I don't think it's at all inaccurate to say you don't like Childress.

I think Childress deserves more credit for the defensive turnaround than you (or anybody else) gives him credit for. He's not the OC, but the head coach: the team's overall performance falls on him, for better or worse. He made the decision about what defense to install. He hired the defensive coaches. Five of the defensive starters were added since his regime took over. He makes the team game plan. To not give credit to the HC for a good defense because he's an offensive guy is no less silly than not blaming the HC for a bad defense if he's an offensive guy (I don't think we should have given Tice a pass for the horrible defenses his teams fielded just because his background was in offense). You fail to give Childress any credit for this, referring to the defense as "Under Tomlin and now Frazier." And perhaps one reason that, right now, "Childress and Bevell simply prefer a cautious offense," is because they know they're playing with a very good defense, and (particularly against ATL) had a good chance to win with a cautious offense. We'll have to see how the play calling changes when facing a team that is able to move the ball against the Viking defense.

I do believe the Vikings are better now than they were, say, from 2002-2004, when they featured a very good passing offense but a horrible defense. It's going to be easier to fix the offensive problems than to fix an entire defense.

And while it is certainly fair to criticize Childress for some things, the offensive weaknesses last season was, in my opinion, primarily a personnel problem. Brad Johnson had no mobility or arm strength last season, and it was clear. The WRs were mediocre (Brad Childress didn't make Troy Williamson drop so many passes). I think the cautious play calling was based on Johnson's inability to make a lot of throws and the WR's inability to stretch the field. Yes, the talent has upgraded on offense, though right now it's mostly young, unproven talent (which I prefer to the washed up players or proven mediocre players from last season). I'm simply more optimistic that Childress can groom these players and build a competent offense. So far we've had 17 games to judge him on. The first 14 featured a washed up QB. The next 3 have featured a division I-AA QB in his first 3 starts. I'm willing to give more time to Childress before assessing whether I think there's no hope.

Vikes Geek said...

Pacific,

I have given Childress credit for hiring the defensive coordinators. In fact, I did so in this very string.

Why not draw comparisons to the 2005 offense? Are the Vikings, with unquestionable greater talent, better now on offense than they were in 2005? If not, why not?

VG

Purple Realist said...

Who's to say what V.G. speculates are not the thoughts of Childress? There is no history of Childress ever giving any insight on anything he may be thinking.

That being said, the tone Childress used while stating "At least we can put that question to rest now," referring to Udeze's meaningless sack, is irrelevant.

The statement alone is insulting to the intelligence of Viking fans without quibbling over what he was or was not thinking at the time. Udeze has a lot to still prove and a sack afforded him only because of a useless Falcon's time-out does not put any questions to rest.

I think it is very fair to criticize Childress for being unlikeable, secretive, aloof, and just overall cantankerous. Public relations is an aspect of the job and statements like that mentioned above only stand to alienate the fan; i.e., the customer.

I am not going to go so far as to say Childress is the reason the Vikes could not sell out their opener, but he does add to the perception of a team that is not friendly to it's ticket holders and viewers.

TBONE said...

The Vikes Geek posts are usually morbid and full of bitterness. I wonder if he truly enjoys watching the Vikings win. It reminds me of how Rush Limbaugh is with Clinton on the radio. I just have to laugh when I see someone so negative and pessimistic. Try and enjoy the game and remember that it is only a game. What are you going to do if the Vikings ever win the Superbowl?