Childress’ sin: Losing fan support and threatening plans for a new stadium

Brad Childress watches Sunday's game as quarterback Brett Favre, background in center, leans against an equipment crate during the third quarter.
REUTERS/Eric Miller
Brad Childress watches Sunday’s game as quarterback Brett Favre, background in center, leans against an equipment crate during the third quarter.

The rap on Brad Childress, fired as the Viking head coach today, was his loss of control of the locker room. He may have been guilty. But the unforgivable sin was igniting a rebellion of the Minnesota football masses, which threatened the box office and a new $800 million stadium. So the judgment by Zygi Wilf and the Viking ownership family was swift.

Childress is out as the head coach in the wake of the Vikings’ ugly 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday and Leslie Frazier, the Vikings’ defensive coordinator, was installed as the interim head coach who will lead this bumbling football team against the Washington Redskins in Washington Sunday afternoon. The Vikings scheduled a news conference later in the afternoon to introduce Frazier in his new role and to explain the circumstances.

There was no special mystery about the decisions. The Vikings are in the midst of a horrific season with a record of three wins and seven losses, less than 10 months after coming within one play of reaching the Super Bowl. Among the fans and clearly among substantial number of players, the blame rested primarily with Childress, his handling of some of the players and his perceived futility in finding a way out of the team’s nosedive in the last few weeks. It has been an underachieving team from the start of the season, a performance compounded by the differences between Childress and his star of stars, quarterback Brett Favre, who made no secret of his lack of respect for Childress’ coaching style.

The internal problems were magnified when Childress abruptly got rid of the quirky Randy Moss after only four weeks in a trade with New England that cost the Vikings a third-round draft choice, a decision Childress made in disgust after Moss created a scene during a catered team lunch and then went on television a few days later to embarrass the Viking leadership with an odd recital of love for the New England organization that had just let him go.

Popular choice
Frazier’s choice as an interim coach was clearly a popular one. He is admired by virtually all of the Vikings players and has been seriously considered for a head coaching position by several National Football League owners. The decision to silence the critics by firing the head coach was a clear copy of the Dallas Cowboys eviction of Wade Phillips two weeks ago and the stop-gap hiring of Jason Garrett, the offensive coordinator. It paid instant dividends. Dallas has won two straight after playing itself into ignominy and out of the playoffs. The fan base was revived, and Garrett is now being seriously mentioned as the new Cowboy head coach in 2011.

Leslie Frazier
Leslie Frazier

It could happen in Minnesota. Frazier is competent and will have the support of a team hungering for something positive. It has the personnel to win again, and the rest of the team’s schedule is soft. It’s theoretically possible — although not very likely — that they could run the table in the last six games and finish with a 9-7 record that might qualify for the playoffs.

But the questions involving a new head coach for the 2011 season are dominated by the possibility of a lockout and player strike and it’s not likely the Wilfs will be making a decision on that until early winter.

Childress’ demise was tied in directly with the Favre saga. He was seen from the beginning as a kind of errand boy when the negotiations bounced around for weeks last year and then again ever longer and more absurdly this year. From the beginning, Favre was the guy, not Childress. Favre pretty much dictated the terms of engagement both with Favre’s contract and his timetable for his appearance for practice. His spectacular season last year captivated the crowds and his sizable ego and comical indecision didn’t bother the fans, although they got to be a trial for Childress.

Childress’ personality, although sociable and sometimes witty, never reached the fans and not all of the players, although he had considerable support from some of them when his job obviously was at stake. He insisted on responsible behavior away from the playing field, and told his players often, “don’t be the last one who gets it,” meaning decency and civilized conduct in public.

But he was easily caricatured from the beginning as an egghead, and despite his remarkable success of the last two years, he drew scant public support when Favre’s season imploded and the Vikings collapsed.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/22/2010 - 03:47 pm.

    Childress is the latest coach to be broken by Favre. The mistake was and is Favre. The whole team was screwed around with in order to please Favre. Remember the avowals of love between Favre and Moss?

    It was clear that Favre’s best years were behind him and last year was a one time fluke. The continued distortion from the retention of Favre has finally succeeded in splitting the team into factions which any coach would be hard-pressed to bridge.

    And, after all this, what about next year? Does anyone sincerely think that Favre will be back? Or want him back?

    Two seasons have been wasted. If Jackson can’t or won’t play to standard, get rid of him. The team is in a serious need of reformation.

  2. Submitted by Ryan Coleman on 11/22/2010 - 04:38 pm.

    Neal makes a very good point in his comment, but you also need to take this piece into consideration: The head coach is ALSO the GM. Does that happen ANYWHERE else in major league sports? Not that I know of. But the NFL is special, and as such, needs to change how it’s handles team personnel: take it out of the coach’s [in]capable hands.

  3. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 11/22/2010 - 05:04 pm.

    I like the Vikings. That being said, I’ll be the first to thank the 2010 team for the public service they provided in significantly shrinking any chance of transferring public funds to the wilf family (who seem to be doing ok without further help). As last year’s juggernaught was rolling to 12 and 4, with only an ill-timed throw stopping them from the superbowl, I was getting increasingly worried that the rush to jump on the bandwagon was going to result in a stadium bill, despite the worst economy in decades.

    Now, the trifecta of a 6 billion dollar deficit, an impending labor dissagreement (between millionaires and billionaires, each loveable in their own way), and an underachieving team has likely protected the public for a few years, at least.

    Thanks, 2010 Vikings!

  4. Submitted by John Olson on 11/22/2010 - 07:55 pm.

    Zygi knows that he needed to shake things up to even have a chance to get a new stadium. He can’t fire the team, so he fired the coach.

    The rest of this season is now completely expendable. Still, Zygi can go over to the Capitol and offer a straight-faced pitch for a new stadium with a ready-made excuse in hand.

  5. Submitted by Donn Satrom on 11/22/2010 - 09:37 pm.

    Firing Childress because he is harming chances of a new stadium may make for a nice story line, but that is as far as it goes. With or without Childress, the Vikings remain the top sports franchise in Minnesota. With or without Childress, the stadium has to overcome serious state budget concerns. With or without Childress, I suspect we will get another new stadium in Minnesota.

  6. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/22/2010 - 09:46 pm.

    I didn’t watch the whole game but tuned in long enough to listen to the Fox News sportscaster talking about how impossible it will be for the Twin Cities to retain a team without a new stadium. Now I read above the Childress is blamed for “igniting a rebellion of the Minnesota football masses, which threatened the box office and a new $800 million stadium.” Are some people so enthralled by professional sports that they haven’t heard what happened on November 2? Or are we living in a State or country that will lay off more teachers, fire fighters and police so it can pay for a new stadium?

  7. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 11/23/2010 - 09:09 am.

    Jon- remember, this is an electorate that wants lower taxes– but no cuts to services; no government run healthcare– but don’t touch my medicare; stop government bailouts– unless our town had a flood.

    There will be no shortage of people calling for a new stadium, regardless of fiscal reality. After all, if you’re drinking an 8 dollar miller lite, you need nicer surroundings then the dome…

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/23/2010 - 09:37 am.

    You people need to wake up. That’s the second time I’ve said that today. You live in an Oligarchy, your politicians serve the wealthy, and that’s not you unless your making more than half a million bucks a years. The majority have never supported publicly financed stadiums, but they always get built. The only tax Pawlenty ever signed off on was a stadium tax. In the middle of contentious election, with recounts and legislative chaos, one of the few items Dayton and future Republican leaders discussed was a fricken Vikings stadium. What does that tell you? The Republicans want to cut 6 billions dollars worth of services and programs, but they’re willing to find a way to build a stadium for Wilf… again, what does that tell you? I know you don’t like hear this, but a class war is being waged against you, and your getting your butt kicked. It doesn’t matter if the Vikings win or lose football games.

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