Thursday, November 01, 2007

Return to the Greasy Grass

Native Americans referred to it as The Battle of the Greasy Grass. Others more commonly refer to it as The Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer's Last Stand. In either parlance, the battle between the U.S. Seventh Cavalary and the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Indians readily came to mind during Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress' most recent press conference in the wake of the team's most recent loss.

When asked about his team's morale, Childress commented that the players are "professional" and that they would "be ready to play on Sunday." That insight aside, Childress offered more, noting that he reminded his players that working together through the rough stretches would make the team stronger in the future.

The question, of course, is what gives Childress reason to believe that the future is significantly brighter than the present? Following Sunday's loss to the previously 2-4 Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings have lost 13 of their last 17 games. And, while Childress continues to preach patience, even Custer's men abadon such hope at some point.

The 800 pound gorilla for the Vikings remains whether Childress' system offers promise even for the future? It appears that, despite a finger injury that kept Tarvaris Jackson out last week, Childress is now willing to test the finger and put Jackson back at the helm of the offense, suggesting that Childress is resigned to not making the playoffs this season.

Assuming, however, that Jackson shows progress this season, is there much more reason for optimism in 2008 even with a better Jackson? Childress' comments suggest that he believes next year, or some year in the near future, will be a better year for the Vikings. But considering Childress' approach to the game, that seems doubtful at this point.

The recipe for returning the Vikings to success appears two-fold. First and foremost, the team needs better quarterbacking play. Brooks Bollinger appears to be the most equipped current Vikings' quarterback to meet that need. Instead, however, Jackson will be given a chance to learn the position and, presumably, audition for his return to the starter's role next season.

If Jackson succeeds, however, the Vikings still will have one large obstacle to returning to the status of championship contender. That obstacle is the mind-set of the head coach. It is improbable, if not impossible, to win an NFL championship with the approach that Childress currently is employing. Teams that play not to lose, keeping the game close in the hopes of snatching victory at the end, are, as precedent demonstrates and probability supports, destined, at best, for mediocrity.

If Childress changes his mindsight--something that sounds implausible given his most recent remarks, and the Vikings identify a bona fide starting quarterback, be that an improved Jackson or someone other, the Vikings might have coaching and ability to add to the ability strewn throughout the rest of the squad. That, at least, would allow the team to compete for a championship--assuming they straighten out their deficiencies on pass defense and don't age too much in the process. But, to argue that perserverance will out without changes in the team's offensive philosophy is a recipe for continued failure.

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