Tailspin or Just a Speed Bump?
Three weeks ago the Vikings were on cruise control to the playoffs. Brett Favre was looking better than he had in 10 years, the defense was clicking, and the division was all but clinched. But in the last three weeks the Vikings have dropped games by wide margins to the Cardinals and Panthers on the road and Favre and head coach Brad Childress have been bickering to the press and behind closed doors while the offense has moved away from focusing on Adrian Peterson and deteriorating into a typical Favreathon mess of winging it on the fly and ignoring the game plan. That has resulted in backing into a division title and suddenly going from quietly winning a ton of games to loudly dropping two of three while the coach has a semi-nervous breakdown in public because he finally seems to realize he's not in charge.
Not that that's any surprise really, but Childress should think about a couple of things before he starts spouting off to the press about pulling Favre or even considers benching him to prove a point. First off, he brought this on himself. He knew full well what he was getting into when he took a private plane down to Mississippi to convince Favre to come to Minneapolis. He knew all about Favre's penchant for changing plays at the line of scrimmage, veering from the game plan, and stubbornly doing things his way. He must have calculated the risk of brining in a guy who likes to freelance and make his own rules against the option of having either Sage Rosenfels or Tavarus Jackson quarterback a team that could still go to the Super Bowl.
As for his locker room tirades, ESPN and the St. Paul Pioneer Press are reporting that players are basically not taking Childress seriously. Anytime a coach chews his team out and players find it entertaining or compare the coach to a parent scolding a teenager, you know that the players are more than likely tuning the guy out. Whatever authority Childress had was abdicated the day he decided to bring in a strong personality like Favre, especially since it's pretty obvious that he can't, nor should he try to, control him. In essence, Favre has the situation and Childress by the balls. Pulling Favre with anything except a huge lead or a huge deficit essentially defeats the purpose of having him in purple in the first place. If the idea was to pull him because the division is clinched, okay, but to pull him because you're having some stream of consciousness idea that it might be a good idea because Julius Peppers is beating him up but it's not really his fault but maybe it's a good idea to yank him, or whatever, comes off as weak. If you want to pull him because you're down 20 and the division is clinched anyway, then pull his ass and tell him you need him for the playoffs. But pulling him with a 7-6 lead and the guy is all heated up? Way to take any wind you might have had out of your sails. You just signaled you were willing to pull your best guy in a tight game, dummy.
Childress is in a tough place because the accepted orthodoxy is that coaches are in control and quarterbacks take orders, which is almost patently stupid because every working situation is different. Anyone calling for the benching of Favre should have their head examined, but Favre does need to remember that just a couple yards behind him in the backfield is the best running back in football, Chris Johnson notwithstanding, and get him the ball. Play action has become a rarity with the Vikings and Favre is spending more time trying to make things happen than letting the game come to him.
Oh, did I mention that EJ Henderson is hurt and Percy Harvin might have two bulging discs in his neck?
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Written by Sean Neumann