Set to begin the fourth year of his five-year contract, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress has nearly all that any NFL coach could ask for as the makings of a legitimate championship contender. That could and probably will make 2009 a make or break season for him.
Throughout Childress' tenure in Minnesota, a tenure that got off to a rocky start on the heals of the preposterous and poorly chosen announcement that he picked Minnesota and that Minnesota did not pick him, Childress has benefited from a relatively strong defense that seems to improve every year, reasonably solid drafts, and some astute free-agent signings. And, after three seasons at the helm in Minnesota, Childress has returned the Vikings to one game better than where the team finished in Mike Tice's last season as Vikings' head coach.
Without question, the most pressing personnel problem during Childress' time as Vikings' head coach has been the lack of productivity from the quarterback position. While the Vikings, on the whole, have improved since Childress' highly disappointing 6-10 inaugural season, the quarterback play has actually regressed, leaving the Vikings with two of the bottom-rated quarterbacks in the league in 2008--one of whom improbably failed even to crack the list of top 32 quarterbacks.
Although Brett Favre is no longer the player he was in his early thirties, and though he arguably is the fourth best starting quarterback in the NFC North this season, he nevertheless represents a significant upgrade over the Vikings' other current quarterback options. With Childress all along maintaining that the pieces were in place to make a run at a championship without Favre, the team clearly ought now to be in even better position with the addition of Favre.
That said, for Childress to retain his job beyond this season, the Vikings either need to make a convincing run in the playoffs, get screwed out of advancing in the playoffs by a series of horrendous officiating calls that even well-chosen red flag challenges are unable to overturn, or lose Favre for the season following a promising start.
If Favre remains healthy, the Vikings, at a minimum, have the care-taker quarterback after which Childress has so long lusted. Odds are, Favre will fair a bit better than that even--as long as he stays healthy.
Should Favre do what he is able to do and should the Vikings still lose, it will be the final sign that something is amiss with "the system." When Denny Green's system showed its incurable warts, the Vikings showed Denny the door. If Childress' handpicked quarterback--number two or three, depending on your accounting method--fails to deliver this year, there will be only one place left to place blame for the team's failure, at the foot of the head coach.
That creates a difficult catch-22 for a coach who likely will not get credit should this team win the championship, but it's the reality of having a team purportedly without any significant holes.
Up Next: A Bag of Beans? Plus, spending and not spending.