The more I ponder Brad Childress‘s decision to rub Chris Kluwe‘s nose in it by bringing in four punters to try out, the more irritated I become. I really think it was a weasel move by Childress who is clearly feeling the heat. Not that I don’t think Kluwe deserves criticism for what went down in the punting game Monday night – obviously, he does. If the coach says kick it out of bounds, then you have to kick it out of bounds. At the same time, Kluwe is not the only Viking who didn’t do his job Monday. The offensive line was not up to snuff, and there were some big breakdowns in the secondary too. But did Childress single out Cedric Griffin or Tyrell Johnson for a public bashing? Did he go after Matt Birk or Ryan Cook or Anthony Herrera? Did he lay into Adrian Peterson for having one of the worst games of his short career? No. He focused all his wrath on Kluwe, the punter. He made it seem like Kluwe was the only guy who screwed up. And it wasn’t enough for him to undress Kluwe in his post-game comments – he had to take it further by bringing in four punters, to “send a message” to Kluwe that he’d better shape up. Yeah? Well, if that’s such a great motivational technique, why not use it on other guys who haven’t been up to par this year? Why not bring in a bunch of cornerbacks to scare Cedric into covering better? Why not audition a bunch of offensive linemen so those guys will know they’d better start opening some holes for the running backs?
The fact is, Chilly would never dare use such heavy-handed tactics in “sending a message” to other guys on the team. Punters and kickers occupy a different little world all their own on a football squad – you can rip them and bash them and cut them loose, and it’s unlikely the other players will ever rush to their defense. Do you remember anyone on the Colts saying anything against Peyton Manning when he excoriated Mike Vanderjagt in public? No. Cause Manning is a quarterback and therefore a real member of the team. Nobody – and I mean nobody – is going to get mad at Chilly for messing with Kluwe. But what do you think would happen if Chilly called out a defensive back that way or an offensive lineman? True, their teammates might not respond in public, but you can bet such action would foment plenty of behind-the-scenes grumbling, if not outright mutiny. Just recall what happened when Childress cut Marcus Robinson loose, then deigned to denigrate his skills and abilities in front of the media. Plenty of guys vented their ire against Childress in the locker room, and even somewhat to the press. You can bet no one will mind much that Kluwe’s getting beat up though – and that’s precisely what makes it such a wormy move for Childress to single him out.
It’s clear that Childress is starting to feel the heat. The fans have all but turned against him and now many in the media are beginning to kick him around as well (the MNF crew basically lambasted his coaching during the final minutes of the first half Monday night when the team had about as much urgency as a stoned turtle). So, Chilly, like the true jerk-off coward he is, has begun looking for scapegoats. Kluwe makes a convenient one for the reasons I outlined above – he’s just a punter, so no one will mind if he gets bruised a bit. Kluwe is such an easy target, in fact, that the whole affair has actually been treated like somewhat of a joke. I bet Kluwe isn’t laughing though. It wouldn’t surprise me to see his performance take a dip in the wake of this. The extra pressure could prove fatal to his confidence. And whose fault would it be if this really top-notch punter, a guy whose importance becomes all the greater in light of the Vikings’ offensive ineptitude, suddenly went down the tubes? It would all be on Childress for calling him out, then making a mockery of him at practice. And Childress, I maintain, is acting out of pure selfishness by taking this approach in the first place. He’s not doing it for the team – he’s doing it to cover his own ass. He’s behaving in a petty, vindictive, frankly absurd fashion. Obviously, the pressure is getting to him. He doesn’t seem to handle pressure that well during games, and he obviously can’t handle it after them either. He becomes defensive whenever anyone criticizes him, and invariably finds someone to lay the blame on. Honestly, have you ever heard Chilly admit to making a bad decision in a game? Can you ever remember him saying, “Today my coaching was just crap. Our game plan was crap. We just didn’t do the job?” No. It’s always the execution. It’s always, “Those guys need to go out there and play better.” This is pure arrogance, and it will end up biting Chilly in the ass. Eventually, he will get even more desperate and resort to calling out some player who isn’t Chris Kluwe, and then the guys will get enraged the same way they did when he dissed Marcus Robinson. He will lose the team and Zygi Wilf will have no choice but to fire him. And on his way out, I have no doubt he will find plenty of people to blame. And none of them will be him.