Sunday, October 19, 2008

Will Can Meet Will for Childress?

Of all the players in the NFL with which Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress is smitten, none has more garnered his favor than Philadelphia Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook. Nary a press conference or interview passes without Childress gushing about Westbrook's flexibility and accomplishments. Nor without Childress commenting that Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson is no Brian Westbrook.

There is no argument here. Peterson certainly is no Westbrook. But that's not because he cannot be. Rather, it is because Childress insists that he is not and refuses to use him in the manner that the Eagles use their versatile, if oft-injured back.

In 2003, his second season in the NFL, Westbrook caught 37 passes for 332 yards and ran the ball 117 times for 613 yards. In 2007, he improved those numbers to 90 receptions for 771 yards and 278 rushing attempts for 1333 yards.

In his rookie season with Minnesota, Peterson caught 19 passes for 268 yards and had 238 rushing attempts for 1,341 yards, despite missing two games to injury and returning early from his injury leave. This season, Peterson has caught 11 passes for 56 yards and rushed 129 times for 561 yards.

The numbers suggest that, despite Childress' curious statements to the contrary, Peterson not only is very much like a young Brian Westbrook with respect to his ability to serve not only as a running back but as a receiver, but also that Peterson might even be more like Westbrook than is even Westbrook.

What appears to be limiting Peterson's success is not, as Childress continues to offer unprompted, that Peterson simply does not have the skill set necessary to catch the ball, but Childress' unwillingness to break from the mold that is his ultra-conservative brand of the West Coast Offense. Unlike the West Coast brand of offense run in Philadelphia and previously in San Francisco, two offenses that rely heavily on the running back in both the rushing and passing game, Childress simply cannot imagine such a scheme working with the likes of pedestrian backs such as Peterson and Chester Taylor.

For the Vikings to succeed beyond the mere humdrum that has become their .500 pace, Childress must accept what is so clear to even the most casual of observers. Namely, he must accept that he has talent on offense that, despite the warts of the offensive line, can change games dramatically. If only given the proper opportunity.

Childress seems to have some sense of what is happening on the field. Unfortunately, he continues to sabotage his own efforts by refusing to capitulate when it comes to making better use of Peterson.

In the field of clinical psychology, stubbornness is correlated with passive-aggressive personality types. Anyone who heard Childress' latest press conference no doubt would have little trouble associating either attribute with the Vikings' head coach. Fortunately for Childress, the symptoms are treatable. Unfortunately for Vikings' fans, the trait-holder must acknowledge the characteristics and then endeavor to address them. It's not at all clear that Childress is desirous or capable of either. And that probably means more of the same for the Vikings' offense.

Up Next: Bears With Us.

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