Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Childress' Ouster Had to Happen

For many Minnesota Vikings' fans, former head coach Brad Childress' ouster occurred approximately four years and ten games too late. Even those dyed-in-the-wool Minnesotans, famous for deferring to the wisdom of decision makers until the decision makers prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their decisions are faulty, must now acknowledge that Childress was a poor fit in Minnesota.

Ironically, Childress' downfall in Minnesota was the same ill that ultimately betrayed and led to the dismissal of his predecessor, Mike Tice. That commonality was the stubbornness portrayed by both in the face of blaring evidence of the appropriateness of acting differently.

Tice immortalized his stubbornness in two episodes that Vikings' fans still widely listen to today, more with a sense of bewilderment and enjoyment than with the angst with which they listened to the episodes at their inception. The first was Tice's insistence on forcing the ball to wide-receiver Randy Moss, no matter the circumstances. Tice's infamous "Randy Ratio" immediately put Tice in a dubious coaching class of his own. He added to that infamy by declaring that the Vikings would need to play "tough guy football" against the Chicago Bears because, of course, Chicago was a "tough guy town." It never entered Tice's mind that the Vikings could play to their strengths and still beat a team composed of different materials than is the City of Chicago.

Childress curiously picked up right where Tice left off, though he had a bit more of an offensive design than did Tice, and far more resources. Presumably, from Childress' perspective, Tice's issue in MInnesota was not that he had been stubborn, but that he had been stubborn and clueless. As it happens, Tice was both--but Childress was both and more so.

While Tice could make an acceptable offensive line out of duct tape, chewing gum, and a wisp of hair, Childress could not cobble together anything that would be acceptable of an offensive line even at the collegiate level. That issue persisted throughout Childress' tenure in Minnesota, despite the Vikings' use of high second-round picks on Phil Loadholt and Ryan Cook, drafting of John Sullivan and Chris DeGeare, signing of Steven Hutchinson, and retention of Bryant McKinnie and blocking tight end Jim Kleinsasser.

Despite Childress' inability to resolve offensive line problems that led to his quarterbacks routinely being murdered, one of the league's best running backs failing to reach his potential, and the subsequent passing and scoring problems, Childress compounded his woes by refusing to make alterations, other than to play musical chairs at center. Rarely did he bring in reinforcements in the form of a two tight-end set, never did he use a lineman in the backfield on goal line situations, and almost always did he run to the weak side of the line in critical situations. Increasingly, it was evident that Childress' head was made of firmer stuff than was even the brick wall into which he routinely ran his offensive philosophy.

Stubbornness notwithstanding, Childress' offense was not what he had advertised, his ability to mentor and mold quarterbacks was a canard, and his strength as a team leader had unraveled. During Sunday's non-performance, rookie bust Chris Cook told veteran defensive end Ray Edwards where to go in repeated fashion, the offensive coordinator again had problems getting plays into the game and refused to go no-huddle, leading to a confrontation with the quarterback following a pick, and too many Vikings' players simply offered minimal effort.

Childress' loss should be to the benefit of both the team and Childress. The team will have a new voice and an opportunity to weed out poor performers both on the field and on the sidelines and Childress will be able to enjoy a hefty severance check and, hopefully, regain his clearly deteriorating health.

The lasting memory of Childress, awful final season aside, likely will be something that has nothing to do with what Childress ever did in Minnesota. Rather, it is a statement made by a colleague who also is now gone from the local scene. Upon his arrival in Minnesota, former University of Minnesota football coach (term used loosely), Tim Brewster assured Vikings' fans that they were "going to love Childress." A telling comment on so many fronts.

Up Next: Frazier's Mandate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Childress Out As Vikings' Head Coach

Minnesota Vikings' head coach continued a trend among Minnesota coaches of accepting a lucrative, long-term extension only to be fired the following season. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will take over on an interim basis. More at noon.

Vikings Stink Up the Joint in Lopsided Loss

The Minnesota Vikings effectively put a cap on a forgettable season, bowing to the Green Bay Packers, at home, 31-3. The Vikings could have scored more, the Packers could have scored less (or many more), but, from the end of the first half forward, there was little doubt which team was better prepared to play.

The Vikings' loss epitomized their entire season, if in most dramatic form. The offensive line was beyond putrid--whatever that would be; the secondary was horrific; the defensive line made two plays the entire day; and the linebackers chipped in one or two more. Add that to another underwhelming game plan that featured too much Naufahu Tahi and Toby Gerhart, too little Adrian Peterson, and consistently overthrown passes to short-armed receivers and the Vikings got their due on Sunday.

The obvious question in the wake of this time-wasting performance is whether it hastens head coach Brad Childress' departure. Previous arguments in favor of making an in-season change of what appears to be a fait accompli, if not now then at the end of this disastrous season, have centered on the belief that Childress' replacement would be assistant coach and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. If that means more of this woeful defense, translated into similar ineptitude on offense, that might not seem so magical.

What Frazier would provide the Vikings at this point is a seemingly more affable, but firm, head coach who speaks well in public. What is not known about Frazier is whether he has been a magician working with mirrors beyond the linebackers all season or not all that gifted at putting together a defense--and, hence, a team. Despite several Pro Bowl caliber players on the defensive line and at linebacker, and with a great corner in Antoine Winfield, Frazier has led a Vikings' defense that appears willing to sit back in a cover two that covers zero. On Sunday, the Packers exposed this ploy, throwing in front of, between, and behind every member of the secondary not named Winfield. It truly was a pathetic performance of epic proportions. And yet, despite this burn propensity, Frazier continued to hold to his don't press and don't blitz philosophy. Is this simply Childress in a different guise? Or, is Frazier stuck with a bad bowl of fruit? Whichever the case, it offers a less-than-certain future for this team, to say the least.

If and when the Vikings move on the head coach, they need also to spend some of their money on ensuring that the team has a legitimate offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. The latter goes without saying, but the former has had far too much of a free pass. There should be no possible way for Green Bay, which has no running game to speak of, to outperform a Vikings' offense that has Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Visanthe Shiancoe, even with Favre throwing high. It's simply not possible, unless the team is being guided in a fashion that makes it possible.

Up Next: Who the Vikings Should Hire. Plus, Vikings likely to split time between Jackson and Webb once they are officially eliminated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Familiar Story Unfolding at Metrodome

It's nearly halftime and the Minnesota Vikings are trailing the Green Bay Packers 10-3, that, despite nearly comparable statistics for the two teams.

The greatest difference through nearly two quarters has been the Vikings' inability to hold onto the football, Minnesota head coach Brad Childress' persistence in giving nearly as many early-game touches to Toby Gerhart and Naufahu Tahi as he has given Adrian Peterson, and continuing futility in the red zone.

In the first half, alone, three Vikings dropped balls. Each drop cost the Vikings' points. The parade of drops began with Greg Lewis' drop of a pass near the goal line. That drop negated what otherwise probably would have been a first down and forced the Vikings to kick a field goal. Minus four points for the Vikings.

The next drop came courtesy Toby Gerhart, who, presumably because he is a rookie who has fumbled in the past and has not been particularly noteworthy, was in position to receive a critical third-down pass. Gerhart caught the pass but failed to wrap it at the end of the run. The result was a turnover at the Green Bay 35-yard-line. Minus at least three points on the play and seven overall.

The final drop (so far) came courtesy Hussain Abdullah. With Aaron Rodgers dropping back in the pocket and clearly eyeing his intended receiver, Abdullah stayed his ground. Rodgers' pass was slightly to the inside of the nearest receiver, Abdullah, who turned and found the ball in his arms. Abdullah dropped the gift, however, and the Packers scored a touchdown on the subsequent play. Minus seven points on the play and fourteen overall.

Clearly, execution is abysmal for this Vikings' team. But, at some point, the coaching staff must assume responsibility for the play on the field. If not, there really is not point in having coaches.

Up Next: It Gets Worse.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Minnesota a Higher Employed Michigan as Vikings Fall to Par With Lions

One of Minnesota's longest-living sportswriters long has quipped that, but for professional sports in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis would be little more than a cold Omaha. That sportswriter's entire universe is, of course, sports, so it is easy to understand how his perception of a city could be determined entirely by whether the market caters to each of the top four professional sports franchises in the United States and equally easy to understand his perception that the reason that businesses locate in Minneapolis is because of the sports teams.

A more valid comparison than the far less populated, less Fortune 500 situated Omaha, however, might be comparing the State of Minnesota to that of Michigan, at least in our sportswriter's sports only World. Only, in this comparison, one need not assume that either market is or will be without its current slate of professional sports teams, however loosely one wishes to use that phrase.

After a shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings have nudged the entire State of Minnesota into the realm of discussions once reserved exclusively for the Detroit Lions. And the discussion is, to say the least, not a good one.

Through nine games this season, the Minnesota Vikings stand a mere game ahead of the last-place Lions in the NFC North. A strong case can be made, however, that that statistic will correct by the end of the season, flipping Minnesota and Detroit.

On the season, the Detroit Lions have scored 215 points, the Vikings 169. The Lions' point total is good for tenth in the NFL; the Vikings' point total is twenty-sixth in the league. And though the Lions have surrendered the eleventh most points this season at 202, Minnesota is only a touchdown off that figure.

At the end of the season, overall margin of victory/loss offers a good proxy on a team's relative standing within the NFL. At present, the Lions are at +13, the Vikings are a -26. Only 11 teams have a worse margin than Vikings. Is there any doubt that, with younger players at core positions and a coach who finally seems competent, the Lions soon will be overtaking the Vikings?

Tomorrow's forecast in Pontiac, Michigan is 54. In Minneapolis, it might reach 40.

Up Next: Who Pays What and Building a Stadium.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vikings Look Disinterested, Inept in Loss to Bears

If the Minnesota Vikings' game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday was a referendum on Brad Childress' tenure with the team, the vote is decidedly against perpetuation of the Childress regime. At 3-6 and effectively four games behind two division opponents, a change at the top likely will mean little for the Vikings this year. But a head-coaching switch to current defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, whose defense was at its worst today, would at least give the Vikings an opportunity to gauge Frazier's ability to lead a team in desperate need of new guidance without putting the Vikings' ownership on the hook for another coach's salary in what could be a coming year without football.

What went wrong for the Vikings on Sunday? It would be far easier to note what went right. Despite losing by only two touchdowns, the Vikings were the beneficiaries of several Chicago miscues; absent these miscues, the score could have been far worse. That, in short, is what went right for Minnesota.

The Vikings' failures included an inability to start the game with any sense of urgency, an inability to establish a cognizable, let alone successful, offensive philosophy, an inability to put meaningful pressure on a quarterback against whom all other opponents have exerted their will, an inability to play special teams, and an inability to function, generally speaking.

This was an ugly, plodding game, the type of game to which the Childress-led Vikings have become susceptible. What all of this is a recipe for is unclear, at least on the positive side, and it all suggests that last year was more a confluence of serendipity and overachievement than anything that the the Vikings' coaching staff culled from the players on the team.

Up Next: The Truth Hurts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Three Reasons That Minnesota Vikings' Head Coach Brad Childress Ought to be on the Hot Seat That Have Nothing to Do With Randy Moss

Over the past week, much ado has been made by the local Minnesota media about the continuing rift between Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress and the Vikings' fan base. Much of that media attention has been on the straw man created by certain members of the media that fan angst is directed toward Childress' dismissal of Randy Moss from the team. The bizarre conclusion, either directly stated or insinuated, is that Moss' dismissal has driven fans to respond both in an uninformed and irrational manner in calling for Childress' head.

With the notable exception of the fans that follow the team's play-by-play man to a local haunt every Friday, most Vikings' fans are far more rational than members of the media give them credit for being and, in many instances, far more rational than many of the media members propounding the straw man theory of fan dislike for Childress.

Only the most addled Viking fans would refuse to acknowledge that Moss' behavior in Minnesota was boorish. Most Vikings' fans probably even agree that Moss' petulance in team meetings, after games, and in games this year offered Childress legitimate grounds for dismissing the wide-receiver. As such, for most Vikings' fans, Moss' departure is a snapshot of Childress' greater issues rather than cause, in and of itself, for concern over Childress' ability to lead the Vikings. Those issues, when considered both individually and collectively, have created the overall anti-Childress sentiment, with Moss' dismissal merely offering the tipping point for venting frustration with the head coach.

Though Childress certainly has made some strides in his time as Vikings' head coach, there are numerous reasons to continue to question whether he merits the position he currently holds, none of which have anything expressly to do with Moss' dismissal or even with Vikings' player dislike of Childress. The following are three such issues.

Among the numerous problems that Childress continues to face is his persistently poor public image. What, for some unknown reason, receives virtually no attention in the regular media, is the fact that the Vikings' organization has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have specialists work with Childress on presenting himself in public. That's almost too rich to believe. But that it is true makes it all the more remarkable that nobody has run with the story of a psychology major who cannot "psychologize"--as Childress might say, particularly as the angle meshes with the fact that the Wilf's hired Childress with very limited vetting. Childress' inability to make great strides in presentation of self in his five years with the team, despite the efforts of the team to assist him in this regard, ought to be cause for concern for anyone viewing any of Childress' other coaching liabilities.

One of those liabilities is Childress' continuing difficulty dealing with veterans, particularly those at skill positions. Last year, Childress attempted to pull quarterback Brett Favre from a game and replace him with the far more subservient, and infinitely less-skilled Tarvaris Jackson. That attempted move led to a heated sideline dispute out of which Favre emerged victorious, to a point.

But the real boiling point hit the subsequent week against the Chicago Bears when, frustrated by the chain-and-shackle conservative offense for which Childress has become a league punching bag, Favre erupted. The result was a torrent of points that almost allowed the Vikings to overcome a large deficit in spite of Childress' game plan. Other run-ins with the highly respected Brad Johnson, Matt Birk, and Gus Frerotte, and other players such as Marcus Robinson, Sage Rosenfels, Percy Harvin, Chris Kluwe, and Ryan Longwell, suggest an on-going control issue for Childress far beyond what normally could be expected of a head coach in the NFL. Clearly, Childress' control issues border on psychosis.

When Childress is not having difficulty with presentation of self and dealing with skill players, he seems irretractably unable to make the best use of the talent on his team. Much is made of the progression that Childress has made as head coach of the Vikings, moving the team from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 to 12-4 last season. That's almost Brewster-like in its revisionism, however, in that it fails to note two extremely relevant qualifications to this progression. The first is that Childress inherited a 9-7 team. By that standard, he did not improve the team until year three of his run in Minnesota, and, then, only marginally so. Presumably, this is far less than even the Vikings' blindered ownership group anticipated when bringing in Childress to replace Mike Tice to coach a team for which, as Childress stated upon "picking the Vikings," was a team for which "the cupboard is not bare." The 10-6 record should have been expected in year one, the 12-4 in year two if things were progressing as expected--either that, or even Tice is superior to Childress, a possibility that cannot yet be discounted.

More damning in the face of Childress' purported success with the Vikings, however, is that, since Childress arrived in Minnesota, the team has upgraded talent virtually across the field and greatly improved its commitment to coaching salaries. Since Childress' first season with the Vikings, the team has added Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre, Steve Hutchinson, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Phil Loadholt, and Visanthe Shiancoe. Somehow, Childress has managed to parlay that talent into a mediocre increase in victories and one playoff victory. That's inexcusable.

What's potentially even more indictable respecting Childress' failure to make more than modest progress with a team loaded with talent, however, is what his reported counterpart on defense, Leslie Frazier, has done. While Childress' offense did improve by 80 points in production from year one to year two of his regime--neatly coinciding with Peterson's arrival--it plateaued the next year before bumping up 90 points upon Favre's arrival. This year, it is on pace to regress to 2007 levels or worse.

Despite being dealt a secondary which, save for Antoine Winfield, should be far worse than anything that Denny Green ever put on the field, Frazier, conversely, has managed to maintain a defense that has retained a top five position in yards allowed and a top-third position in points allowed. That's even more impressive given significant injuries to EJ Henderson, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, and Chris Cook, and the aging of Pat Williams, all of which have limited the Vikings' ability to blitz and, thus, to put pressure on the quarterback.

These are but three of the primary reasons why, Moss' departure aside, Vikings' fans have very rational reasons for questioning whether Childress is the right fit for this team and why they have fodder to consider that Frazier might be the better option. And while this certainly takes more time to lay out than the straw man argument put forth by some in the local media to explain the "irrational reason" why Vikings' fans would like to see a change at head coach, it is the grist upon which the Vikings' owners most assuredly will grit their teeth when deciding Childress' fate either later this season or at the end of the year.

Up Next: Da Bears. Plus, the real stadium solution.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Vikings' Victory Likely to Put Even More Pressure on Childress

On Sunday at the Metrodome, the Minnesota Vikings put on a head-scratching display befitting their embattled head coach. For roughly fifty minutes, the Vikings played conservative on both sides of the ball, awful on special teams, and with seemingly no determination or grit. For the final 10 minutes of the game, the team did what the team did at the tail end of last season, thoroughly dominating the regardless-of-record hapless Cardinals en route to a 27-24 overtime victory.

During his post-game press conference, Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress all but announced that Zygi Wilf and the rest of the Vikings' ownership group viewed yesterday's game as a measuring stick--a win would buy Childress time, a loss would result in his dismissal. Asked what Zygi said to the team following the Vikings surprising comeback, Childress said "he just said 'great heart,' and I think he meant that for everyone." Clearly, Childress' lingering doubt was over the extent of Zygi's support for him.

The predicament is not entirely surprising. Even when the Vikings were winning, improving on Childress' first miserable year as coach after adding talented player after talented player, year after year, the Vikings' organization was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional image builders to improve Childress presentation of self in public. With that image badly sullied in the wake of yet another of Childress' personal battles with a key player, Childress' decision to make an expensive decision on the owners' dime without first consulting the owners, and Childress' peculiar handling of Moss, all those hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of window dressing were about to unravel.

The first fifty minutes of the game on Sunday played out like virtually every Childress-led game in the pre-Brett Favre era with plodding offense, predictable running plays, lapses on defense, porous special teams play, and questionable coaching. From the constant runs up the middle, to Chad Greenway's failure to haul in an easy interception, to Percy Harvin's fumble and the Cardinals' return of a kickoff for a touchdown, to yet another unfulfilled Childress challenge, everything, including an eleven-point home deficit to a weak Arizona team suggested that Childress was taking his final steps along the Vikings' sidelines.

In the last ten minutes of a near-defeat, however, the Vikings reverted to the form that nearly brought the franchise a Super Bowl in 2009-2010. We saw a glimpse of what the Vikings could do on offense earlier, even without a stellar deep threat, when, earlier in the game, Bernard Berrian decided to make his annual appearance on the field, Childress deigned to call a screen to Peterson, and Percy Harvin did what he wanted to do. But the results were nearly non-existent until the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Favre took control of the offense, running the no-huddle, two-minute drill to perfection on successive drives. The result was a worn out Cardinal defense that could not stop Adrian Peterson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Favre, Harvin, Berrian, or any of the Vikings not named Jeff Dugan.

To make it to overtime, however, the Vikings needed not only a return to 2009-2010 playoff form by the offense but also a return to similar form by the defense. Held sackless for three straight games and outsacked on the season by the Detroit Lions' first-round draft pick in 2010, the Vikings' defense finally did what it has needed to do all season. With the game on the line, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier finally took off the gloves and blitzed, rushing linebackers, corners, and safeties. The result was six sacks and the ball, in overtime, with a chance to win. And where he did not have the opportunity against the New Orleans Saints in last year's NFC Championship game, Vikings' placekicker Ryan Longwell did have the opportunity to win the game yesterday--and, not surprisingly, he converted.

The Vikings' victory yesterday kept the team in the hunt for a playoff spot this year and bought Childress at least one more week to show that he can change fan perception of him. To accomplish the latter, Childress has to buy into the Vikings' offensive talent. That means more no-huddle offense, relinquishment of control of the game plan to the quarterback, more screen plays to Peterson, more passes over the middle to Shiancoe and Harvin, and, when he returns, more plays to Sidney Rice than the Vikings even attempted last year. It also means pressing Frazier to experiment on defense as he was forced to experiment with the blitz on Sunday.

The ultimate irony of yesterday's performance is not that the Vikings won the game by abandoning the control that Childress so often has difficulty relinquishing, but that Childress' most likely successor, should Childress not make it to the end of the current season, is a coach who finally, himself, figured out the 2009 season, Frazier. While Childress bought himself more time to show he can do what he ought to be able to do with a team this loaded with talent, Frazier might have ratcheted up the pressure on the ownership group to make a move even more than Childress quelled any such pressure.

Up Next: Not the Cowboys. Plus, Frazier and Childress Icing Approaching.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Childress Offers Yet Another Justification for Letting Him Go

The press conference took approximately 20 minutes. Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress took about thirty seconds of that time to offer his "prepared" statements. Those statements, and the answers and non-answers to questions following therefrom offered further evidence that Childress simply is not meant to be the face or the mind behind an NFL football team.

Childress began his press conference by informing everyone of what they already knew, that the Vikings had waived wide-receiver Randy Moss. He then proceeded to throw everyone in the organization under the bus, before finally, absolutely begrudgingly acknowledging that coaching has something to do with the Vikings' current predicament.

"We need to catch the ball, throw the ball, and make plays on the ball better than we have," Childress said in response to a question regarding his decision to release Moss. Nowhere in that initial answer was there even a hint of Childress taking responsibility for the team's situation. That allowance came only at the tail-end of a response late in the testy press conference, during which Childress sounded like he had read the writing on the wall.

When questioned about his release of Moss, an explanation which seemed to be the entire purpose for the press conference, Childress offered that he was "not going to go there." He repeated this early and often. His only qualification to that poorly conceived response was that "it just didn't work--it just wasn't a good fit from a programmic [sic] perspective." Childress did allow that the decision to pick up Moss was on him, though the tab would be on the Wilfs. None of this makes the organization look good, none of it helps anyone.

After refusing to answer questions pertaining to the purpose of his press conference, Childress noted that he followed "process" in releasing Moss. When pressed, he stated that everyone in the organizational chain of command was in the loop prior to a decision being made and all but stated that he discussed the move with the Vikings' owners prior to making the decision. That, of course, debunks the Wilfs' claims of shock and dismay--and purported sense of helplessness--over the decision and should be recalled when our local octogenarian claims that "the Wilfs never supported the move and wanted to keep Moss."

More disturbing than Childress' refusal to answer straight-forward questions regarding his release of Moss was Childress continuing insistence on mischaracterizing information for which mischaracterizing serves no purpose. Like his childish misinformation regarding any number of previous acts, Childress claimed that, one hour prior to informing his players that Moss was no longer with the team, he did not know that he planned to release Moss. He also claimed that Moss' stay in New England was planned well in advance and that Moss' subsequent failure to return with the Vikings had nothing to do with his decision to release Moss.

Star-Tribune reporter, Judd Zulgad, became the first local reporter in recent memory to properly take a local sports coach or entity to task for a bold-faced lie, pressing Childress on clear misinformation. Childress' failure to provide an honest answer is simply a microcosm of Childress' inability to relinquish control of anything under any circumstances. It is a mind-set reflective of an individual who is not equipped to coach in the NFL. Mike Tice was stubborn, Childress is psychotically so, and it reflects poorly on the Vikings' organization and bodes poorly for the team which must continue to try to win in spite of Childress.

Up Next: Metal Pipe to Head Versus Childish Comment.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Zygi Selling Swampland

On Monday, Minnesota Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf let "slip" that he was not informed of head coach Brad Childress' decision to release wide-receiver Randy Moss and that he was not pleased with the decision. Certainly, this news will serve as future grist for our local octogenarian apologist for local team ownership groups--particularly those ownership groups attempting to procure public funding for a new stadium. At best, however, the story is half-baked.

If Zygi is so upset over Childress' determination to cut Moss, he still as the opportunity to step in and make certain that Moss remains with the team. That is because, despite Zygi's protestations, as of noon on Tuesday, Moss had not yet been waived by the Vikings.

If Moss is waived by the team, Vikings' fans should be clear that Zygi's protest is nothing but window dressing. Zygi is letting Childress make the call on Moss and, in return, requiring that Childress stand up and take the fallout. Zygi wants none of it in his attempt to put a good face on the ownership group.

Anyone who believes that Zygi has been caught by surprise and is incapable of putting the brakes on Moss' waiver should expect a call from Zygi's realtor in the near future--or from mine.

Up Next: Eminently Winnable Games No Gauge on Childress.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Power Struggle PIts Vikings' Head Coach Against Ownership and Front Office

While there are defensible reasons for Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress' preference to release wide receiver Randy Moss, apparently Childress did not set forth, defend, or carry out to a resolution those reasons with the Vikings' front office or ownership group, prior to making his announcement of Moss' waiver at 2 p.m. on Monday. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, there was no notice of Moss' waiver filed with the NFL. That meant either that the Vikings had not yet sent notice to the NFL or that the team was not going to release Moss. Either possibility remains in play.

The drama at Winter Park has reached epic proportions, even for a team that has dealt with the Red McCombs' era and Randy Moss in recent years. At this point, it appears virtually even odds that the Vikings will have a new head coach as early as tomorrow, with current defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier the most likely replacement.

Childress' dismissal, impossible one week ago, despite national attempts to fan the Childress flame, now seem more likely than at any time since the Vikings' ownership group came close to dismissing the head coach in 2007. With recent in-game gaffes, poor results despite one of the most highly paid and most talented teams in the league, and the ownership group's on-going efforts not only to secure public funding for a new stadium but also generous public funding for a "state-of-the-art" facility, the Wilfs will be hard-pressed to look the other way this time, favoring a head coach who fans have generally disliked over a mercurial, bizarre wide-receiver who puts fans in the seats, jerseys on fans' backs, money in the teams' coffers, and who has galvanized the fan base, regardless of what that might say about the fan base.

Up Next: Why Not Him, Why Not Now?

Childress Signals Own Troubles in Waiving Moss

Randy Moss held up his arms prior to halftime last week, as his then head coach Brad Childress opted to sit on the ball rather than attempting to score. This week, Moss failed to catch a ball for a touchdown after being interfered with by a New England defender and having the ball float in front of him. Last night, Moss called out his coach.

Today, Moss is among the wealthy unemployed--a presumably temporary status.

The Vikings' waiving of Moss just three weeks after trading a third-round draft pick for the mercurial wide-receiver, signals not only the Vikings' bizarrely schizophrenic nature this year, but also Childress' on-going struggle to earn the respect of his players. Dating to the Christmas Eve release of unhappy wide-receiver Marcus Robinson and following with his well-documented disputes with quarterbacks Brad Johnson, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, and Brett Favre, Childress continues to be the one person at the center of each dispute who remains with the team.

Clearly, these disputes are borne out of a belief on the part of the Vikings' players that Childress is both a control freak, as many NFL coaches are, but also one that insists on his way even when his way is not working. How it is not working for Childress has been documented here and elsewhere since day one of his tenure in Minnesota, with the occasional corner being turned, only to have it reestablished the following week.

Last year, Childress changed form in bringing Favre into the fold. Now, Childress is considering benching Favre for the hopeless but compliant Tarvaris Jackson and Moss is gone.

Moving Moss could be an important team unification move were the source of the problem Moss. Moss, no doubt, is a handful, but Childress is the petulant child who owns the ball and who, despite his lack of ability, threatens to take the ball and go home if he is not allowed to play quarterback.

This has all the makings of Childress' final move.

Up Next: More on Moss.