Friday, June 19, 2009

Favre a Minnesota Viking in all but Contract Terms

This past week, the two most visible non-players in the Minnesota Vikings' organization made evident the direction that the Vikings hope to go at quarterback in 2009. On Wednesday, while delivering the off-season, time-filler known as the "State of the Vikings" address, Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf addressed the Brett Favre situation, stating that the "ball is in Brett's court."

On Friday, Vikings' head coach Brad Childress departed from his normal softball talk with KFAN's Minnesota Viking Pollyanna, Paul Allen, to field questions from the more insistent and persistent Dan Barreiro. Throughout the discussion, Childress spoke of Favre as though Favre already was on the Vikings' roster. Responding to comments that Vikings' defensive end Ray Edwards made regarding Favre's vacillation on whether to return to the NFL this season, Childress sounded like a head coach defending his own quarterback. "Ray kind of led himself off the bridge on that one--let his mouth flap," Childress said.

Childress continued, stating that he thinks Favre "will be a great lockerroom guy and an excellent teammate," suggesting that Favre's addition was a fait accompli.

At the end of the interview, rather than throw out Allen's obligatory "I've gotta ask but won't press you to answer" question, Barreiro did what he does best with local sports personalities--he baited his guest and let the interviewee talk. "If Sage or Tarvaris happened to be listening to this conversation--and it sounds like this [deal with Favre] will get done, what do you say to them?" Barreiro asked, tossing in an assumption as a secondary matter when it really was the point of the question.

"I'd say if he goes down, we'll need you," Childress replied, neither pointing out Barreiro's assumption nor resorting to his usual out with Allen that he does not "deal in hypotheticals."

Either Childress now deals in hypotheticals, or he's fairly confident that Favre will be a Minnesota Viking in 2009. And given the likely backlash from the fan base should the Vikings fail to lure Favre out of retirement after all of the PR that the team has unleashed on the Favre matter, there's far more reason to expect that that latter is true.

Up Next: Favre File.

How the Vikings Got Brett Favre

"Ahhhhhhh . . . what are we going to do about the quarterback situation for next year," Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf asked his personnel guy Rick Spielman.

"Well, coach says he's confident that Tarvaris will continue along his trajectory and that the position is set," Spielman answered, looking up from his bowl of Ramen Noodles.

"Ahhhhh . . . F*%k coach," Zygi matter-of-factly replied, twisting his two brows into one ominous furrow running the width of his forehead. "That goddamn T-Jack isn't helping me sell any tickets and he sure as hell isn't winning the big ones. What else do you have?"

"I think we can get the Rosenfels kid from Houston without too much prying," Spielman replied between slurps of his soup. "They'll probably want a late-rounder for him."

"Ahhhh . . . Didn't we tell the fans that those late-round picks are valuable?" Zygi asked.

"Yeah, we did," Spielman nodded, nearly poking through the bottom of his Styrofoam bowl, "for stuff like this."

"Hmmm....storied franchise, championship team, family," Zygi mumbled. "O.K. Do it if you can, but what's that going to do for ticket sales? Some guy from Iowa State via Houston? Sounds like a non-starter to me."

"It'll be tough," Spielman acknowledged, spilling some soup on his new Dockers khakis. "Coach thinks the kid can play--can push T-Jack to a higher plane."

"Storied franchise, long-term contender, championship-caliber program," Zygi again mumbled. "Get Bob in here."

[PR man Bob Hagan enters room]

"Bob, what's the goddamn story on Rosenfels?" Zygi asked. "If we get him, do we sell tickets?"

"No chance," Hagan confidently replied.

[unintelligible grunts from Zygi]

"Ahhhh . . . What about Favre?" Zygi asked, wedging his hands deep into his pockets. "Any chance we can get the gunslinger?"

"Not sure coach would be too excited about that," Spielman answered. "Likes to throw the ball, control the game flow, call his own plays--not Brad's type of quarterback."

"Ahhh . . . Did I ask what Brad thought?" Zygi asked, his voice nearly rising above a whisper, causing Spielman to fumble his soup bowl and drop it to the floor. "Bob, what's that do for our goddamn sales?"

"Probably through the roof," Hagan replied without hesitation. "Should sell out tickets, sell tons of new merchandise, and tons of beer."

"Ahhhh . . . Goddamn concession deal," Zygi mumbled.

"Do the damn thing," Zygi ordered. "Put Favre in purple for 2009."

"I'll see what I can do," Spielman answered.

"Don't see--do," Zygi retorted.

Up Next: No Downside to Adding Favre

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vikings Not Backing Off of Favre

Earlier this week, a national media outlet reported that the Minnesota Vikings, and Brad Childress, specifically, had issued an ultimatum to quarterback Brett Favre. That purported ultimatum had Childress requesting a decision from Favre on whether he intended to play with Minnesota this year. As we reported yesterday, the Vikings never imposed this ultimatum on Favre--nor, under the circumstances, did it make any sense for them to have done so.

Today, Childress confirmed that he has never given Favre an ultimatum, flatly rejecting the claim. And while it is always difficult to take Childress at his word, it is even more difficult in this case not to do so. With training camp more than a month away and Favre still working on strengthening his arm, there simply would have been no benefit to the Vikings of issuing such a short-term ultimatum--or any ultimatum--at this time.

Presumably in an attempt to save face, the national media outlet that reported the Childress ultimatum to Favre yesterday reported that the Vikings have decided to back off of Favre for the moment. In the reporting world, that's called back-tracking without an admission. In this instance, it's also patently untrue.

The Vikings remain as interested as ever in Favre and are merely waiting to hear whether he wishes to return to play for the team this season. That's where things stand. And until Favre has an opportunity to strengthen his arm, and until training camp opens, it is highly improbable that he will announce his intentions.

If there were any doubt about the Vikings' intentions, those doubts should have dissipated following Childress' Wednesday morning statements on the situation. During a call-in to a Twin Cities radio station, Childress made clear his interest in Favre, commenting on Favre's abilities and what he would bring to the Vikings. Childress even offered that he had had conversations with Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson and that "both players understand that it is [the coach's] job continuously to improve the talent on the roster."

For those who have followed the Vikings and had occasion to listen to Childress speak, the fact that the Vikings' head coach is speaking positively about Favre's abilities and what he would contribute to the team says all that is needed to be said about the Vikings' interest in Favre.

Up Next: Moss or Rice?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Vikings Not Giving Favre Ultimatum

For the past month, one national media outlet has taken great pains to scoop the rest of the football world on the Brett Favre saga, circa 2009. That source's efforts have led the media giant to criticize a St. Paul-based newspaper columnist for claiming that Favre had had surgery to tend to his arm problems (a claim that appears to have been informed), to claim that the Vikings gave Favre a one week deadline three weeks ago (an unfounded claim), and now to claim that Vikings' head coach Brad Childress has given Favre a deadline of Friday, June 12, to decide whether he will play for the Vikings in 2009.

As has been the Vikings' modus operandi under head coach Brad Childress and Player Personnel Director Rick Spielman, the Vikings predictably have declined to comment on this latest report. Given the lack of even a well-couched team denial, and Childress' penchant for wanting to be in complete control of his universe, there is reason to buy into the rumor.

With the start of training camp still more than a month off, there is no reason, however, for Favre to state his intentions at this point. And there is even less reason for the Vikings to request it. Having only recently had surgery to address the bicep injury to his throwing arm, it is highly unlikely that Favre is prepared to assess whether he can play in 2009--and even more unlikely that the Vikings are in a position to do so.

With two possible starting quarterbacks already in the fold, the Vikings have the option of waiting as long as it takes to obtain a commitment from Favre. The only conceivable difficulty for the Vikings in waiting for Favre to reach a decision on his schedule is that the Vikings would have to delay making use of their $16 million or so in cap space to address future contract concerns. That might make players like Antoine Winfield less enthusiastic about training camp, but there's little doubt that Winfield will play hard when it matters.

Even Childress understands this game.

Up Next: Building a Better Mouse Trap. Plus, more free agents?