Vikings’ Childress joins a long list of NFL coaches on the fans’ firing line

Brad Childress
Brad Childress

Today’s exercise for you loyal Minnesota Vikings fans is a fill-in-the-blanks. I pulled this passage off a website critical of a head coach. You pencil in the names where appropriate. Eyes on your own paper, please: 

“We are a growing legion of fans of the (BLANK) who have had enough of doubletalk and coachspeak. We’ve had enough with vanilla defense and inept offense. We’ve had enough of the great (BLANK) legacy being tarnished by a coach who ignores what has made this team great through the years.

“Quite simply — we’ve had enough of (BLANK).”

Those of you who answered Minnesota Vikings, Purple, and Brad Childress … nah, you’re too smart to be sandbagged. The passage came from FireNolan.org, which demands that the San Francisco 49ers sack coach Mike Nolan.

And boy, is it nasty. In one illustration, designers Photoshopped mug shots of Nolan and general manager Scot McCloughan onto a “Brokeback Mountain” movie poster.   

Websites let fans boo the coach without leaving home
Used to be, anyone who felt the need to rip the local NFL coach had to buy a ticket, go to the game and and sit in the cold to boo him.

Now, it’s cheaper and easier. You register a web domain name and unload on the guy, or sign in to a fan message board and cuss him out anonymously from your home, your work, the car or the coffee shop down the street. Anyone can call the coach a jerk in the time it takes to rent a movie.

And apparently, you don’t rate as an NFL head coach unless someone creates a website or Internet petition calling for your firing.

A simple Google search on Wednesday found sites demanding the heads of Lions President Matt Millen and coaches Scott Linehan of the Rams and Marvin Lewis of the Bengals, as well as Nolan.  Millen and Linehan, the ex-Vikings offensive coordinator, are already gone. 

The Millen site, firemillen.com, is still active, and its latest poll is a stitch: 70 percent of 2,536 respondents think that even with Millen gone, the Lions will still stink.

At FireChilly.com, a petition created on Feb. 11, 2007, to can Childress — yep, after his 6-10 first season — claimed 2,315 names. A new petition for 2008 drew 1,468 names.  

That hardly compares to the more than 20,000 who clicked on a savebrett.net petition demanding the Packers keep Brett Favre. But even with duplication, that’s still a lot of unhappy people.

No wonder most of the Vikings’ best talkers — Darren Sharper, Jared Allen, Matt Birk and Antonie Winfield — never appeared during the open locker room period on Wednesday. After answering questions about the “Fire Childress” chants after Sunday’s 12-10 victory over Detroit, and again Monday, what was left to say?

Too early to give up on season
Owner Zygi Wilf probably won’t fire Childress now, because that means giving up on the season, which would be stupid. Even at 3-3, the Vikings are still tied for the NFC North Division lead and one game behind every other winning team in the conference except the 4-1 Giants.

The oft-quoted phrase in Childress’ December 2006 defense of his offensive scheme — “I know it’s a kick-ass offense when it’s executed properly” — will be the epitaph on his coaching tombstone if the Vikings underachieve under his tenure. (That quote inspired another anti-Childress site, kickassoffense.com, which, by the looks of its home page, hasn’t been updated in a year.)

Too often, Childress stands at the lectern and acts as if he’s the smartest guy in the room, especially when the Vikings aren’t playing well. Criticism is never easy to take. But talking down to people you consider intellectually inferior is the wrong way to handle it.

A few message-board cranks call him Klink, after the bald, clueless Nazi prison-camp commandant in the 1960s TV series “Hogan’s Heroes.” And Childress, a former Eagles assistant, may regret likening Vikings fans to mean-spirited fans in Philadelphia, as he did Monday.

“I would think the coaches are under a fair amount of scrutiny out there in Philadelphia,” Childress said on Wednesday. “But I don’t know if you can stick your head in a vise and it makes you any better. I certainly didn’t train in front of a bunch of guys firing questions at me or anything like that.”

Quarterback Gus Frerotte has played through a lot worst than this. In 2002, he started and then was benched in Cincinnati, which finished 2-14. “I don’t care what you think we’re going through now. I’ve seen it at its lowest point,” he said. “I felt bad for Coach (Dick) LeBeau. That was probably the hardest situation I ever had to go through.

“It was just a long, long year, because you knew going into the game, you could see in the guys’ eyes that they didn’t have that urgency or drive to win. Not like here. People have that drive and that urgency.”

We’ll see how that manifests itself Sunday against the Bears at Soldier Field. Fair warning: The Bears’ official website already has a Fire Lovie Smith thread.

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