Sunday, November 15, 2009

Childress No Longer On Permanent Hot Seat

Starting a season 6-0 normally would disqualify an NFL head coach from residency on the proverbial hot seat. Not so Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress. With a loss at Pittsburgh suggesting that the Vikings still had some room from improvement against the handful of competitive teams remaining in the NFL, Childress found himself in another proverbial spot--limbo.

The Vikings' victory at Lambeau Field prior to their recent bye week softened concerns about Childress' ability to guide a talent-laden team, but did nothing to convince Vikings' ownership that Childress' contract, with one year yet remaining on an initial five-year deal, merited rewriting. Still, where Childress is today versus where he stood last year at this time, has to be comforting--at least to Childress.

Whether Childress deserves an extension is a question best reserved for next season. A sensible argument can be made that the Vikings' current head coach fits more the mold of caretaker coach than guiding force. That's fine, as long as the caretaker is surrounded by talent, as Childress is this season.

Few other teams, if any, can boast a top-three running back, top-five quarterback, and top-three defensive end, along with an offensive rookie of the year candidate, and at least five Pro Bowl players and several more All-Pros. Those benefits, along with solid special teams players, one of the league's best defensive lines, a strong linebacking corps, and consistency in the kicking game, are a coach's wet dream. In this year's Vikings' team, Childress has just such talent.

Given the high level of talent at every critical position on the roster--save starting center, and the putrid level of competition in the NFC this year, the Vikings' front office ought to expect nothing less than a 14-2 record at this point. And, if the Giants continue to falter, 15-1 should be within reach.

The Vikings' regular season record against a litany of scrub teams is irrelevant, however, if they fail to beat the better teams that they will not face until the playoffs. In the NFC, gaining any better perspective on whether Childress has risen above the role of caretaker coach might well require that the Vikings face the Saints at some point, as most of the rest of the league's talent appears currently to reside in the AFC. And that all but requires that the Vikings make it to the NFC Championship game.

In some respects, 2009 thus is a no-win situation for Childress. The Vikings have put together a team so relatively strong that even a replacement-level coach ought to be able to guide it to a highly successful season, with the only meaningful test being competition against teams that have every bit as much claim of ability to beat the Vikings as the Vikings have to beating them. With perhaps only one or two such opponents remaining on their pre-Super Bowl schedule, that gives Childress little window to prove his wares.

But at least he's not on the hot seat.

Up Next: Coaches Certain to be Gone by Season's End.


ajj90 said...

It is interesting that his contract hasn't been extended yet. VG, why do you think his contract hasn't been extended already?


vikes geek said...


There's nothing to be gained by extending him at this point. He's still under contract for another year and has not yet done anything to prove that he is irreplaceable (or at least difficult to replace).

On a related note, how horrible was the Vikings' offense on the limited plays that Tarvaris Jackson ran today? That might have something to do with the decision to not yet extend Childress. If Favre is done after this year, how will the Vikings fare under Childress' system with Jackson or Rosenfels under center? That's a question for which the fans--and Zygi--do not yet have an answer. If today's limited outing was any indication, however, there is little reason to get excited about the coaching at this point. It could be much worse, but, four years in, it also should be better in some areas (goal line situations immediately come to mind).


ajj90 said...

I agree the negative in the game is gaining all those yard will fewer points to show for it. Peterson was also stunted by the Lion's defense coughing up another 2 fumbles for loss. The coaches toy with getting Peterson involved in the screen game but not to the extent that they could.

Positives: Rice has become a legit deep threat which should allow bigger and better games from Peterson down the stretch. It will at least give teams something to think about when a guy catches 200 yards worth of passes.

The defense continued to play aggressive all the way to the end of the game. No soft cover 2's letting Detroit creep back into the game. When the offense couldn't punch it in, the defense became Stafford's worst nightmare bringing him to the turf on almost every drop-back.

The Vikings have two more home games against mediocre opponents before they get the real challenges in their schedule (if you can call Carolina, and New York "real" challenges)

Joel said...

Hey VG -- Good comments. My one contention would be on the Vikes' remaining schedule. A few weeks ago, it looked like they should blow through the latter portion of the season. Now, though, some of those games are not looking like such walkovers. Carolina and Arizona are resurgent, and Cincinnati is one fluke play away from 8-1. What looked like just one tough game is now looking like three or four or even five tough ones.