The story’s a few days old now but I wanted to get to it – the one by Pioneer-Press writer Sean Jensen about how certain Vikings veterans are still not all that sold on Brad Childress’s coaching style or overall philosophy. Jensen came with a lot of inside poop, including anonymous statements by Viking players, the conclusion being that Childress has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by being stubborn and unyielding and basically a jerk-ass.
To no one’s shock, one of the big gripes against Chilly was that he was too heartless in docking Troy Williamson‘s pay over Dead Grandmagate (the players did give Childress credit for finally relenting). Then there were some of the issues that came to light in the off-season thanks to Antoine Winfield‘s little mini-holdout. Apparently, Antoine wasn’t the only Viking vet who was perplexed by the team’s failure to sign an established QB to the roster. The ill-will mostly revolved around the team’s shunning of Jeff Garcia, a free agent who was said to be interested in donning Purple. One unnamed Viking player said:
We’d be a lot better with [Garcia]. But I like how [Tarvaris Jackson] plays, and I think he will get better.
And Tarvaris has gotten better – luckily for Chilly, who probably would’ve seen his team mutiny had the offense remained as inept as it looked for much of the early season.
Chilly’s disinterest in Garcia – he admitted that they never really seriously considered him – was seen by the disgruntled Vikes as part of an overall flawed philosophy, one which devalued star players in favor of lower-profile guys who would fit better in Childress’s vaunted Kick-Ass Offense. One player called Childress’s no-star system “ridiculous,” adding, “What teams don’t need big-name players?”
Childress responded to criticism by saying:
I’m convinced that, in a perfect world, the way you’d like to be able to build the thing is through your draft and augment your team with free agents. I think the conception is, “Oh, these guys got this much cap money, they need to spend it.” Well, you just don’t want to spend it just to spend it, and you don’t want to spend it frivolously. We’ve still got some business principles that we adhere to.
And, of course, the Vikings now do have a big-name player, Adrian Peterson, who was acquired via the draft. Peterson has been a huge part of the Vikings’ turn-around from a 3-6 helpless dog team to a 6-6 playoff contender. Guys are now obviously less down on Chilly – it’s hard to rip your coach when you’re riding a 3-game winning streak, and the QB he anointed has suddenly become a solid performer. The question, though, is just how deep-rooted the anti-Chilly vibe is in the Vikings locker room. Is it the sort of thing winning will entirely cure, or will certain veterans always harbor negative feelings toward their boss?
One Viking player, Dwight Smith, indicated that it does go deeper. Speaking about the Troy Williamson flap, Smith said:
I believe the Troy Williamson situation brought the locker room tighter together, because when it first came out, [we] as players felt, “Not only is the outside world against us, there are people inside this building against us.” So for us to fight through, we need to be together, and I think that’s what happened.
If hating Chilly is what it takes to bring the team together in the short term and help them win, so be it. However, in the long run, it can’t be good to have all this open animosity leveled against the guy running the ship. Things aren’t always going to clip along as well as they are now, and when they do go south, too many guys will have reasons to toss Chilly over the side. It seems to me that, in the end, it’s going to be a him-or-me proposition for a lot of people. And given the faith Zygi Wilf seems to have placed in Chilly, it appears likely the dissenting players will be the ones shown the door first.