There’s no way of finessing the situation – the Vikings need a win against Arizona or their season will be lost. At 2-5 they still have a decent shot at the playoffs, given the weakness of the NFC. But if they slide to 2-6? You can kiss any realistic hope of a 2010 playoff run goodbye. And, if last week’s reports are to be believed, you can probably kiss Brad Childress goodbye as well.
Judging from the sentiments being expressed by most Viking fans, there will be few tears shed if Childress is indeed sent packing by Zygi Wilf. The fact is that, from almost the moment of his hiring, Childress has been an unpopular figure with Minnesota fans. His manner has often seemed patronizing, his offense has often been boring, and his handling of players has often been clumsy. And I haven’t even mentioned his game management skills. However, if the Vikings should lose to Arizona this weekend, and Childress should subsequently be fired: I ask the vociferous Chilly-haters, what then? Would getting rid of Childress and elevating Leslie Frasier to head coach actually result in a run of wins? Or, would the Vikings’ problems remain even without Childress at the helm?
I have no doubt that Childress has done things to deserve being on shaky ground with his owner. However, if the owner fires Childress simply because Childress irritated him…well, how then would Wilf be any different than Childress himself, who got on the hot seat precisely because he allowed Randy Moss‘ comments about him to bother him personally? At some point, somebody in the Vikings organization has to put personal feelings aside and run this thing like a professional organization. In my mind, Childress getting fired now would demonstrate that Wilf is no more in command of things than Childress. The firing of the coach would not restore my faith in the organization; on the contrary, it would prove to me that the organization is in profound disarray, from the top down.
The fact is, a lot of what’s gone wrong this year has not been Childress’ fault. Did Childress injure Sidney Rice‘s hip? Did he cause Brett Favre to suffer a bad elbow and bad ankle? Did he hurt Cedric Griffin‘s ACL? Did he cause the pass rush to mysteriously vanish? Blaming Childress for everything that’s gone wrong in 2010 is, I think, a little too easy. And thinking Childress’ firing would magically fix the Vikings is naive at best.
No, the best thing for the Vikings now would not be a Childress firing but a win Sunday against the Cardinals. If the Vikings are going to get this much-needed victory, it appears they will have to do so without Percy Harvin, who injured an ankle early against the Patriots and has spent the whole week hobbling through practice. With Moss gone and Rice and Harvin hurt, the Vikings would be left with Bernard Berrian as their #1 receiver…but even Berrian was listed on the injury report this week with a bad groin. If you want to find a healthy Vikings receiver you have to go down the list to guys like Greg Camarillo, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett. Needless to say, Brett Favre himself is not exactly 100%.
With Favre still not fully himself and the receiver corps greatly diminished, it figures to be another rough week for the passing game. At this point we should’ve long-since resigned ourselves to the reality that, if the Vikings do manage to put together some wins this year, they will not be pretty wins. The 2009 offense ain’t walking through that door. The only thing that’s working this year is running the ball with Adrian Peterson…and if Childress elects to leave Peterson on the field, maybe he will even have a chance to carry the team. If Childress has any survival instinct at all, he will scrap his “mixing in Toby Gerhart” plan and just ride Peterson. I wouldn’t presume to tell Mr. Childress how to do his job, but it seems to me that when you do get some offensive momentum going, it would be a good idea not to yank your best player.
The key word when addressing the defense this week is “bounce back.” As in, these guys need to bounce back from getting undressed in the second half by Tom Brady and the Patriots. Asher Allen got exposed as not a very good football player last week, and overall, the tackling was just not good enough – sort of shocking when you consider that, for the last few years, the Vikings have sported one of the best tackling units in the league. Obviously, with the secondary looking shakier by the week, the onus falls more-and-more on the front-four, which has not exactly been rising to the challenge. I could do the easy thing here and blame it all on Jared Allen, but the fact is, the line in general has just not been getting consistent penetration, and that’s showing up both in the pass rush and the run defense. If the guys in the middle – the alleged strength of our defense – get more penetration, quarterbacks will get flushed more and Allen will run into more sacks. Frankly, I’m beginning to believe our real problem is that Kevin Williams has hit the downslope of his career. Outside of the occasional batdown, what plays is he making? The Williams Wall this year has looked more like the Williams Chicken Wire Fence. I don’t want to sound too harsh, but frankly, Brett Favre isn’t the only old washed-up guy on our team. Pat Williams is about done; and if you want to extend this discussion out to the team as a whole, I think you can add Antoine Winfield and Steve Hutchinson to the list of guys who are fading quickly. We knew the window was going to close on this team this year, but what we didn’t realize was that, for a few of the key veterans, it was already down to a crack.
Brad Childress can’t stop Father Time any more than he could stop Randy Moss from being a prick. But, when you’re a coach in the NFL, the reality is that you’re going to be blamed for everything, even the stuff that’s out of your hands. Childress’ problem this year is that everything came to a head at once: certain key guys got old, certain young guys got hurt, and a certain desperation set in that led to the single most disastrous personnel move of Childress’ tenure. Of course, Chilly still deserves plenty of blame, for the sometimes bizarre and boneheaded way he reacted to all these issues. However, I reiterate, firing Childress won’t make that stuff go away. Only a win, ugly or otherwise, will dispel the Cloud of Doom currently darkening the Vikings’ skies.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings, Pat Williams, Percy Harvin, Randy Moss, Sidney Rice, Steve Hutchinson, Toby Gerhart, Zygi Wilf