Near the end of last season, with the team in disarray, the Minnesota Vikings finally acknowledged their mistake in hiring Brad Childress, firing the fifth-year coach. The move created a vacancy which the Vikings filled with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Rather than audition candidates for the head-coaching vacancy, the Vikings did what they essentially did when hiring Childress, signing the first "candidate" that they encountered. In part, the move was an acknowledgement that the team intended to pinch pennies on its new hire, still on the hook through 2013 for Childress' recently extended deal. Frazier's hire was also consistent with the team's continuing penchant for over-reaching to correct a past error.
Following Red McCombs' 2005 trade of Randy Moss to the Raiders, the Vikings used the number seven overall pick in the NFL draft to select the theretofore relative unknown, if speedy, wide-receiver, Troy Williamson. That move failed in spades.
Less than one year into his ownership cycle, Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf, addressing the perception that then head coach Mike Tice spoke too freely and was too cozy with players (in addition to other flaws), sought a disciplinarian with a commitment to a plan. For this role, Wilf hand picked Childress.
Childress was arrogant without cause, bringing with him the silly moniker of "quarterback guru" and "offensive genius" despite demonstrating virtually nothing in either regard as an offensive coordinator with assistant coordinator's duties in Philadelphia. But, Childress did make one particularly strong move, adding Mike Tomlin as his defensive coordinator.
One year into Childress' run in Minnesota, the fans already were cool to Chillyball and Chilly the man. But many fans identified Tomlin as a strong head coach in the making and clamored for the Vikings to replace Chilly with Tomlin.
Not willing to admit their mistake in so hastily hiring Childress, the Vikings committed to Childress, letting Tomlin leave for Pittsburgh. That the Steelers, a team long regarded as making good personnel decisions, passed on two hometown favorites in selecting Tomlin as their new head coach spoke volumes of Tomlin. That the Vikings allowed Tomlin to walk in favor of Childress, spoke volumes of the Vikings lesser decision-making.
The lesson that the Vikings learned from Tomlin's departure and Childress' subsequent failings as Vikings' head coach was, unfortunately, that Childress had an eye for defensive coordinators as coaches in training. That's why, in addition to wanting to save some money, the Vikings made Frazier the permanent head coach in 2011, without seriously entertaining any other candidates.
This off-season, the Vikings fired their one beacon of professionalism on the defensive side of the ball, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. That move, almost certainly linked to some internal disagreement(s) between Dunbar and someone of higher authority, signaled the apparent rudderlessness of the Vikings' team. The team's subsequent move demonstrated, however, that, if the team does have a rudder, it is often woefully misdirected and almost consistently steering upstream.
Upon reporting Dunbar's dismissal, the Vikings also announced that they were bringing in recently fired Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris for consideration as defensive coordinator--the position still held by Fred Pagac. Morris' only other job interview to date was for that of cornerbacks coach for Washington.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay announced that it was interviewing Childress for its head coaching position. With all that has happened in Minnesota since Childress' arrival in the land of the North, the Bucs' announcement, too, speaks volumes of the Vikings, if also of the Bucs. By bringing in Childress, the Bucs are making three statements regarding the Vikings. The first is that the Vikings had a good coach in Childress. In Minnesota, we know that was not the case, but we'll let the Bucs discover that on their own.
The second statement that the Bucs are making by bringing in Childress is that there is too much talent on Minnesota's roster for the team to finish with three wins. That's a direct commentary on the Bucs' feelings about Frazier's job performance the past year. On that point, it is difficult to quibble.
Finally, the Bucs are signaling their belief that the guy who was fired in Minnesota is a better coach than the guy who replaced him and the guy who Minnesota is considering for the position of defensive coordinator. In short, the Bucs are saying that, were they able to go back in time two years and trade Morris for Childress, saddling Conference rival Minnesota with Morris' defensive coordinating, they would do so in a heart beat.
That's fitting commentary on the delusion that continues to permeate Winter Park.
Up Next: Some Real Candidates Enter the Picture.