The Star Tribune writers Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins chart the rocky situation facing Vikings coach Brad Childress as the team faces a must-win game at home against the Arizona Cardinals:
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will hear the fans’ opinion of embattled coach Brad Childress on Sunday at Mall of America Field. And it could be ugly.
Childress was pilloried on sports talk shows, message boards and websites when he cut cult hero Randy Moss on Monday. The move also irked an ownership group that wasn’t consulted. And you can be sure neither the fan base nor management is happy with a 2-5 start for a team expected to be a title contender.
That’s where it all really pivots: the terrible start to the season for a team that was expected to repeat last year’s playoff surge and get to the Superbowl for the first time since 1976. Expectations were so high that anything less than 6-1 at this point would have the fans grumbling. Losing 5 games has left them looking for heads to roll.
The trouble with Moss started long before he berated caterers in the team’s locker room, long before he didn’t attempt to catch a possible touchdown pass after a penalty during the New England game, and long before he criticized Childress in front of ownership and the media.
Moss is a punk. An incredibly talented, self-centred, now aging punk. Childress seems to have completely missed that little detail in the trade. Bill Belichick doesn’t give up players for no reason, but he found the perfect patsy in Brad Childress. Then, to compound the mistake of thinking he could control Moss (in a way no other coach except Belichick has ever done), Childress then waived Moss without clearing it with the owners.
To sum up: hopes raised, hopes dashed, third round pick flushed down the drain, and still no solution for the passing game. Oh, and pissing off the boss into the bargain on top of the already angry fan base.
That’s not to say that Childress was wrong to cut Moss: as I said at the time, I was surprised that he made the decision so quickly. But the one right thing he did couldn’t salvage the wrong decision that brought Moss back in the first place. I welcomed the signing, on the assumption that Childress knew what he was getting — a seriously faulty assumption in hindsight. That fault isn’t on Moss, who was just being his normal prickly, obnoxious self. The fault is on Childress.
Childress, who might have saved himself criticism by consulting with the owners before pulling the plug, instead acted alone. The move stunned and disappointed many players; on Wednesday, Childress refused to divulge much about his decision.
Even the right decision can come back to haunt you if you don’t follow the rules.
Does Childress still have the support of the team?
“I can’t speak for every guy in the locker room, and I’m not going to,” Favre said Wednesday. “But I think ultimately, regardless of scheme, philosophy, each player, the bottom line is you are playing for yourself first. If you don’t play well, you may be out of the league before too long. Secondly, you are playing for your team.”
As the team’s final weekly practice ended Friday, Childress and Harvin got into a heated argument when the coach questioned his injured receiver’s effort, according to sources.
When incidents like that become public, people wonder if the coach has lost the locker room.
I guess we’ll find out today, based on how the Vikings perform in the game at home against the Arizona Cardinals. Minnesota is favoured by 9 according to the odds-makers, and anything less than that will be underperformance by the team.
Zulgad and Scoggins seem to think that Childress is still secure in his job until the end of the season (his contract doesn’t have a buy-out clause, so it’d be expensive to fire him). I don’t know if the owners agree. Another loss, especially at home, might well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Update: John Holler thinks this game has to be an epic beating of the Cardinals to save Childress:
If Brad Childress wants to keep his job, he may have to blow out the Cardinals in the Metrodome. The rankings say that might be attainable, as the Cardinals have poor positioning in numerous league rankings.
[. . .]
Only one team has been in the red zone less than the Cardinals offense. Only one team has allowed opponents to get into the red zone more often than Arizona. In their last three road games, they have been outscored 104-27. These are epically bad numbers. How they have a 3-4 record is a mystery, much less posting wins over New Orleans, the Raiders and St. Louis – all teams with .500 or better records. They have found a way to win games, but, when they are bad, they are very bad. And, fortunately for the Vikings, they are very bad on the road.
There have been a lot of questions about the future of Brad Childress. With the Bears and Packers following the Cardinals on the schedule, this is a game that needs to not only be won, but won convincingly. Today’s game needs to be a beating. Any win will be acceptable. A loss to the Cardinals? Childress may be in the market for boxes on Monday. Don’t believe that? Let the numbers do the talking.