There are several levels in the current composition of the NFL. At the bottom are teams such as Miami, Kansas City, and Oakland. These teams not only have no shot at winning a championship, they have little chance of winning any given week.
At the top of the heap are teams such as Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay, all teams that expect to win each week and have realistic expectations of playing for a championship at the end of the season.
One rung below the top teams in the NFL are the teams that are favored to win more often than not but lack a key ingredient necessary to become a bona fide contender for a championship.
In the third rung, just above the bottom-feeders, are the teams that want desperately to join the top rung of teams but which show too little attention to what matters to be taken seriously.
In which level do the Minnesota Vikings currently reside? At the beginning of the season, head coach Brad Childress and the chearleading members of the Vikings' coverage team attempted to convince Vikings' fans that the Vikings were ahead of Green Bay and Indianapolis in the top tier of teams. That take was based on the assumptions that Bernard Berrian would replace the deep threat that the Vikings have not had since the departure of Randy Moss, that Visanthe Shiancoe would begin to catch the ball, that the offensive line would improve, that the additions of Madieu Williams at safety and Jared Allen at defensive end would improve the pass defense, and that Tarvaris Jackson would return to the team a much improved player over last season.
To date, all of those assumptions have proven false. Chester Taylor has more receptions and Shiancoe more yards than does Berrian, Shiancoe has more drops than receptions, the offensive line continues to sieve, Madieu Williams, following his trend in Cincinnati, has yet to play in the regular season, Jared Allen has one of the team's two sacks, the team ranks 24th in the league against the pass and eighteenth in points allowed, and Jackson mostly looks hopeless, ranking 26th among NFL starters behind such NFL luminaries as Brian Griese, JaMarcus Russell, and J.T. O'Sullivan.
The result might be a Vikings' team clinging to its slot in the second tier of NFL teams, still well outside the top tier of teams, but for one additional short-coming, that of coaching. The 14-20 record aside, and notwithstanding his purported recognition that Jackson simply might not be a viable NFL starter right now, Childress continues to dismay. Forever banging the "play it close" drum, Childress seems utterly incapable of taking the type of risks that the heretofore most risk-averse coaches assumes as a matter of course. The result on Sunday was yet another conservative loss with yet another series of laments about "one play here, one play there."
With a different coaching philosophy, Jackson might mature into an NFL player, the Vikings' receivers might catch the ball, the running game might become unstoppable, and the Vikings might rise to the second or even first tier of NFL teams. Under the current coaching philosophy, a philosophy that seems as stuck in neutral as ever before, however, movement seems unlikely.
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