Following his team's loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress was asked whether star running back, Adrian Peterson, had had enough touches in the game. Childress replied that Peterson "probably had about the number of touches that he ought to have had."
Asked the number of touches that Peterson could be expected to have against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Childress answered "about twenty--probably twenty, give or take one, maybe two. We think that's about right for Adrian. Chester has another ten or twelve. That's about what we're looking for in the running game."
Pressed as to whether Vikings' fans could expect to see Peterson more involved in the passing game, Childress responded that "AP might get a couple of passes. We had him in on a couple plays against Green Bay and we'll probably have him in on a couple of passes on Sunday."
Childress clearly was comfortable with Peterson's limited receptions on Monday, hinting, as well, that Peterson's limited involvement in the passing game meshed well with the coach's philosophy of a close-vested, ball-control, run-dominated game plan.
What's remarkable about Childress' commitment to a conservative game plan is not that he remains wedded to the philosophy despite having, in Peterson, a potentially game-breaking player, but that his commitment to playing it close and "giving the team a chance to win at the end" seems a less successful strategy than playing a more open style of ball.
In 2006, the Vikings played nine games that were decided by seven or fewer points. In those nine games, the close-to-the-vest type of games with which Childress appears enamored, the Vikings were 2-6, a .250 winning percentage.
In 2007, the Vikings played eight games decided by seven or fewer points. In those eight games, the Vikings were 3-5, a .375 winning percentage.
Conversely, between 2006 and 2007, the Vikings played fifteen games decided by more than seven points--the type of game that Childress seems morbidly petrified by. In those fifteen games, the Vikings were 8-7 for a .533 winning percentage.
Clearly, a .533 winning percentage is not the stuff of which championships are made. Even more evident, however, is the fact that a .533 winning percentage is preferable to a .375 winning percentage.
What Childress appears to be banking on is the prospect that he can improve upon his team's winning percentage in close games while maintaining his team's winning percentage in other games. Needless to say, that's a highly conservative angle to take in a league in which few teams cut above .500 in close games and even fewer enjoy the potential to have games with greater score separation.
The frustration for Vikings' fans is not that Childress wants to give the Vikings a chance to win at the end of the game, but that his methodology is at odds with what gives the Vikings the best chance to win at the end of the game. More plays involving Peterson would logically appear to equate to more opportunities for game-breaking plays and more opportunities for greater score separation.
Childress seems to think otherwise. But Childress' numbers appear to lie.
Up Next: Stopping the Pass.