Last year, the Minnesota Vikings went to Lambeau Field in week ten of the NFL season and laid a 34-0 egg. Following the game, an irate Vikings' owner, Zygi Wilf, gave Vikings' head coach Brad Childress an ultimatum--win or pack your bags. Childress responded to Wilf's dictate, leading his team to five successive victories.
Childress' late-season winning streak in 2007 saved his job. It now appears that Wilf has handed down another ultimatum to his struggling head coach, this time much earlier in the season. One day after the Vikings' 30-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Wilf strongly indicated that he would be using next Monday's game at New Orleans as a barometer on Childress' future with the team. The implication is that a sound defeat at the hands of the Saints would compel Wilf to sever ties with Childress.
The move, two weeks in advance of the team's bye week, would allow Childress' replacement a relatively nice four-week cushion to ease into the job as the Vikings face Detroit, Chicago, and, Houston, after the bye week, in succession. It's not ideal, but neither is starting 1-4 in a season preceded by free spending by an ownership group intent on leveraging success on the field to the payday that would be a new stadium.
Wilf is said to have a list of four prospects for replacing Childress. Should Childress fail to make it through this season, the odds-on favorite to assume the head-coaching duties would be defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. With talent at critical positions, Frazier has not had to demonstrate substantial mettle in the face of adversity. But with constant game day pressure on his unit resulting from a malfunctioning offense, he has still guided an otherwise talented squad to the top of the NFL, something Childress has been unable even to approach on the offensive side of the ball.
If Childress the season, he nevertheless will remain on the hot seat in Minnesota should the Vikings fail to make the playoffs or should the team show a continuing downtrend in fan support. Under either scenario, Wilf is said to have in mind three additional head-coaching prospects, former Pittsburgh Steelers' head coach Bill Cowher, former San Diego head coach Marty Schottenheimer, and former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel. It is unclear if, other than Frazier, Wilf would consider any young coordinators for a head coaching vacancy, but, given the heretofore disappointment that has been Brad Childress, and the stock of aging veterans at key positions on the Vikings' team, it is presumed that Wilf would opt for experience over youth.
That Wilf again would be contemplating a move on Childress should come as no surprise as the head coach has languished through his first 36 games in the NFL with an uninspiring 15-21 record. This, despite inheriting of a 9-7 team with talent on both sides of the ball and the Vikings' continuing addition of talent, most notably at linebacker, defensive end, safety, and running back.
Adding pressure to Wilf's calculus is the fact that, even in victory, the Vikings' fan base is nonplussed with Childress' handling of the team's lethargic offense. That disenchantment has manifested itself in one of the more truly astounding poll results of the season, even for a struggling head coach. As it does every week, ESPN polls fans on their views of NFL head coaches. At number 32, behind recently fired Scott Linehan and under siege head coach Lane Kiffin, sits Childress with a lowly 5% support.
Sometimes, statistics don't lie. And, sometimes, owners pay heed.