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.