Monday, September 29, 2008

Zygi Poised to Dump Childress if Vikings Flop in Big Easy

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.

16 comments:

Ryan said...

Just out of curiosity, what is your source?

KSandbergFL said...

Zygi will definitely fire Childress after yet another 7-to-9 win season. I doubt that it will be after the NO game, however. I think Childress lasts the season unless the Vikes truly flop and are 1-7 or 2-6 at the halfway point.

Zygi certainly has enough money to entice a first-rate coach, but I doubt that Cowher or Schottenheimer would bother to re-locate to Arctic Minnesota. I would put money on a coach with MN ties, like Brian Billick or Scott Linehan. Billick would be a great choice (in my opinion). He won a Super Bowl, and has great credibility as an offensive coordinator, since he was O.C. of the record-setting 1998 Vikes offense.

minvikes79 said...

First off i love the title of the article. Not sure the validity of the post, but i LOVE IT. We can only hope for such a turn of events. For all of our sakes, i hope it happens. Its the same ol story game after game. Thank God we have the best RB in the game to give us a little hope. Skol Vikes! Fire Chilly! 13-3.

Goch432 said...

You have teased me before with things like this, sometimes you write like you know people in the Vikings offices and sometimes you sound like an intelligent well reasoned fan.

Childress is the biggest idiot I think I have ever seen as a head coach. I have been debating with people at work about which out of work head coach has a style that most fits the talent the Vikes have. (I'm in redskins country) I keep hearing Cowher but I just don't think his style is a good fit, Schottenheimer maybe. Billick has never really shown anything when he isn't being carried by others. I've been impressed by Kiffen and wouldn't mind him getting a shot but I have a feeling Zygi might not want to take a chance at this time with another coach with a short resume unless he can't get someone more experienced.

Cabrito said...

VG, I remember well that your blog generated a lot of discussion and controversy last season. Many Viking fans found it a worthwhile site (much better than the Trib nonsense blog) to air their frustrations about their team. Now, I find only a few people responding to your opinions and insights. Why the discrepancy? What's different this year? I can exlain it in one simple word.

Despair. Thanks, Chili.

vikes geek said...

Ryan,

I think we had this discussion last year, just a few weeks later into the season.

VG

vikes geek said...

ksand,

While a change during the bye week or after the season would be most logical, there would be some method to changing a coach in mid-season. The Vikings have been struggling to sell out home games and fans appear increasingly to be disenchanted with Childress' approach. What I love about the ESPN fan poll is that it is a sampling of ardent fans and ardent fans are registering their displeasure--not only after losses but also after victories. After the Carolina victory, Childress had a fan approval rating of 29%. He now stands at 5%--64% below Lane Kiffin.

Despite what some in the local media have suggested, fan disenchantment has as much to do with the Vikings' style of play as it does with the team's low winning percentage under Childress (15-21). That's not a positive for an owner intent on leveraging fan support to obtain a new stadium.

VG

vikes geek said...

minvike,

Thanks. Here is what you can bank on as of today--if the Vikings get walloped by the Saints, Childress will be done. That suggests that a Vikings' victory over the Saints or even a close loss will buy Childress some more time. I suspect this has all come down to a waiting game, however, as it is utterly inconceivable that, after 36 games of one brand of football, Childress suddenly will have an epiphany. Maybe. But I'm banking on the contrary.

VG

vikes geek said...

Goch,

Thanks, I think.

All of the coaches currently out of the game have their own warts--that's what cost them their jobs. Schottenheimer has trouble winning it all; Cowher is a control freak who loves three-yards-and-a-plume-of-field-turf-granules; Fassel was loathed as a loser, even when he won; Billick was reviled by everyone, everywhere. There's no sure bet among this group, but the Vikings are in a tough spot with numerous aging veterans nearing the end of their run with the team and a fast closing window of opportunity that probably needs the guidance of a veteran coach. Of this group, I'd roll with Schottenheimer. He'd inherit his best defense in some time and knows how to execute on offense. Let Schottenheimer groom his heir.

VG

vikes geek said...

Cabrito,

I agree. Despair and ambivalence. It's difficult to get too excited over a team that plays not to lose, runs an offense that utterly lacks imagination and verve, and that aspires to make the playoffs while others play to dominate. Contrary to Childress' constant quip, it's not a marathon, its a race. One-quarter of the way through the 2008 season, the Vikings look like the same team that Childress put on the field in 2006 and 2007. Then, the line was that he had not yet implemented the full offense. Now, it appears that the coach believes his players just cannot execute. I've argued nearly from the beginning that this offensive scheme leaves so little room for error that every error becomes magnified. When the Vikings miss on a big play, players and fans, alike, are deflated because they know that that was one of two or three big play attempts that the team will run the entire game. While other teams go right back at the other team's weakness, the Vikings seem to follow a script--play 10, deep pass, play 11, up the gut, play 12, off tackle, play 13, punt. It's always the same. If and when the team wins, it is because Peterson busts a run. That's not a tribute to coaching.

VG

vikes geek said...

Cabrito,

I suspect, as well, that most people have more important things about which to deliberate right now than whether Childress stays or goes. That, too, bodes ominously for the Wilfs.

VG

Goch432 said...

VG, it was intended as a compliment to say you write like an intelligent well reasoned person and to say, sometimes I wonder it you work in the Vikings offices or know someone who does. (On the few times it has come up, you sidestep.)

I gave up on Chilli after the first year. I never saw the light coming on as the year went on, nothing that left me thinking he was getting it as time went on.

While all of the coaches with and without jobs have their own warts, I am looking at who is available and gives the team the best chance with the players in place now with minor tweaks. Having watched teams switch from radical coaching style to radical coaching style and having to blow up the team to get the players that will fit the schemes, The Vikes have too much talent to do that at this time and MAYBE 2 years after this one to get it done. Marty is the one I keep coming back to. I would love a 35 year run of Vikes winning it all every year, but I will enjoy a well coached, competitive team, even in rebuilding years.

Long term, most of the Tice and Childress (excluding AP, probably better than Tice) drafts aren't replacing the caliber of players they have been/will be losing and most of Maj Dad's free agent signings haven't worked out.... I think he signed Hutch, he signed Wade... is there anyone else good I am forgetting? Mostly just Childress trying to prove he's smarter than everyone else by finding that talent no one else was smart enough to see and he's been wrong over and over.

Sorry for hos long this turned out to be.

J. Lichty said...

Schottenheimer?

Talk about aiming only for the playoffs not dominance.

I think Fassel is the best choice. He is a great coach who unfortunately for him could not please anyone in NY, as you note, even when he was winning.

I wanted Fassel when he first got fired in NY.

vikes geek said...

Goch,

Then an unqualified thanks.

I agree with your assessment, though some of the blame for failed signings has to go to Brzezinski and Spielman and some has to go to the fact that, over the past two years, there really have not been too many quality free agents. I see larger issues with Childress setting his mind against a type of player (i.e., Moss) and the front office, as is true of most NFL front offices, failing to consummate a trade to bring players to Minnesota (Jason Taylor immediately comes to mind). Brzezinski was once lauded for getting talent on the cheap. The truth, it appears, as at least some suspected, is that Brzezinski was not allowed to spend. When allowed to spend, his track record has been pretty average.

Where I credit the Vikings is in front-loading most of the salary cap money given to free agents over the past two years, thereby diminishing the cap hit in future years. That's a credit to Zygi.

VG

vikes geek said...

Lichty,

I've (almost) always liked Fassel, but he's a bit rougher around the edges than Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer has lost in the playoffs but only twice when he absolutely should have won. That's a bit Denny like, and that's a downer, but any coach around long enough will have such moments. Bud was a great coach, but even he had a poor track record in big games.

VG

J. Lichty said...

Brzezinski was once lauded for getting talent on the cheap. The truth, it appears, as at least some suspected, is that Brzezinski was not allowed to spend. When allowed to spend, his track record has been pretty average.

Brz is more of a numbers guy, and not really the guy to go out and get the talent. The Vikes have not whiffed on anyone because of money, but rather because they would rather play elsewhere. Douglas comes to mind as an example. He has done well with Hutchinson and I think has generally been very judicious about when to let a player move on. The slim pickins cannot be blamed on Brez.

While there clearly have been problems in the draft, in general the FA's that have been brought in have been upgrades. The one that stands out as a bad move was Wiggins for Shiancoe.

Brez is not the problem, and generally the talent level on the team is not the problem. This team should be better on the field. Your post and many other of your posts have identified that the problem is largely with Childress.