In 2010 under Brad Childress, the Vikings managed only 3 wins in 10 games, all three victories coming at home against horrible teams. The run of Chilly-inspired ineptitude culminated last Sunday in a 31-3 home defeat at the hands of the hated Green Bay Packers and their dashing quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That was one embarrassment too many for owner Zygi Wilf who chopped off Chilly’s head in punishment. Now the Vikings will proceed with Leslie Frazier at the helm. The cloud of uncertainty within which the Vikings have operated for several weeks may begin to dispel today against the Redskins, or it may only get thicker and more acrid.
If Leslie Frazier is half the coach some people want to believe he is, the Vikings should be in for a dramatic recovery. With Frazier at the controls, the team should be more unified, more motivated. There should be fewer in-game gaffes. Phil Loadholt should cease jumping before the snap like a skittish (very large) horse. Asher Allen and Chris Cook should no longer get burned on sideline routes. Ray Edwards should be transformed from a giant lump of uselessness into a dynamic edge pass rusher. Brett Favre, Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield and Steve Hutchinson should feel the years falling away, their youth restored as if they had drunk from the magic fountain. Darrell Bevell should suddenly become possessed by the spirit of Bill Walsh. The Vikings should brush aside the Redskins as if they were flies, and proceed to thunder their way through the rest of the 2010 schedule.
Or, maybe the whole thing wasn’t only Chilly’s fault after all. Maybe the Vikings are just an old, tired team that gave up the ghost weeks ago and is now doomed to sleepwalk its way to a 6-10 record. Maybe there’s nothing Leslie Frazier or anyone else can do. The uncertainty is what makes today’s game so intriguing. For years we’ve watched Brad Childress run things, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Now Chilly’s plodding, risk-averse approach will be replaced by…what? No one knows. Frankly, given the way he’s run the defense the last couple of years, I doubt Leslie Frazier is going to open things up much. I doubt the defense is going to become blitz-happy, and I doubt the offense is going to become the Greatest Show on Turf. The hope is that Frazier will at least provide a calming presence, unlike Childress who had an uncanny knack for exacerbating already chaotic situations.
The other hope – the bigger hope – is that with Childress no longer dictating the offense from his kick-ass throne, Darrell Bevell and Brett Favre will get to conjure some magic. Unfortunately, game-planning is only part of the offensive formula – the rest is execution. It isn’t enough for Bevell and Favre to pare down the playbook as they reportedly want to, eliminating some of the cuter aspects of Chilly’s variation on the WCO in favor of a more direct approach. You have to make it happen on the field too, which means blocking pass rushers, hitting open receivers, not dropping balls. Firing Childress and letting Bevell/Favre have full offensive rein does not, for example, fix the fact that Anthony Herrera is hurt, nor does it repair whatever is wrong physically and/or mentally with Bernard Berrian. It doesn’t help Adrian Peterson pick up blitzers or hold on to passes. A lot will have to start going right for the Vikings if they are going to emerge from the Childress debacle a better team.