In Defense of Brad Childress and Player Accountability

This photo was taken, appropriately, from firechilly.com, which was established in 2008.

The Minnesota Vikings eked out a 27-24 overtime victory yesterday against the Arizona Cardinals, despite trailing by 14 with under four minutes remaining. At least for now, head coach Brad Childress and the Vikings have life.

Thousands of fans missed out on the late-game theatrics because they’d long left the Metrodome before Ryan Longwell’s 35-yard field goal sealed the win. Of course, those fans were probably exhausted from spending a better part of the game booing at any and every chance. Those same fans probably came with their “FIRE CHILDRESS” signs and T-shirts, as if attending a protest and not a football game. Those same fans actually wanted their team to lose just so they could be adieu to the mustachioed one.

You know how other fans decry the Vikings fan base? Call them fair-weather fans? Easily on and off the bandwagon? This is why.

I know fans who hoped the Vikings would sandbag it yesterday, purposely lose, just so that coach Childress would be fired. Never mind the Vikings are still technically in the playoff chase. Never mind an NFL lockout looms after this season, meaning the Vikings may not play a meaningful season for two years. Never mind the Vikings have the talent to win now, and only get better this week when star wide receiver Sidney Rice returns from injury. A division of Vikings fans wished failure for their team just to have a different coach at the helm, virtues be damned.

Childress has made for a convenient target all season, despite some serious shortcomings by players like Brett Favre, Jared Allen, Phil Loadholt and the entire defensive secondary. Then there’s the Randy Moss debacle. Childress turned fans’ disappointment to fury last week when he decided to waive the future Hall of Famer after a series of tirades and perceived poor effort on the field. Many felt he not only should’ve informed ownership of this decision, but he should’ve consulted the fans, as well.

Please. This isn’t the St. Louis Park Pee-Wee Football League. If Favre throws a pick-six, that’s Favre’s fault. If Asher Allen whiffs trying to tackle something called “Danny Woodhead,” that’s Allen’s fault. If the Vikings defensive line is made to look like an elementary school recess with it’s paddycake pass rush, that’s the defensive’s lines fault. Coaches are responsible for putting players in a position to succeed. Coach Childress put basically all of the same players in the same position last year on the way to a 12-4 season. Don’t kid yourself — that this team is 3-5 has nothing to do with a shift in strategy or philosophy, but rather execution. Until there was 3:34 left in yesterday’s game, the Vikings looked like a team waiting for something good to happen.

Then, finally, they made it happen.

Speaking on Vikings fans after the game, Childress said, “I think they came expecting to see an execution, and it ended up a pretty good football game at the end.”

Childress isn’t off the hook. In fact, nothing short of the most improbable Super Bowl win could bring Childress back for another go-round. I’m not arguing to bring Childress back, either.

As fans, consider who you’re shooting at before drawing your bow. In fact, make sure you’ve got more than one arrow, because this year’s futility has been a group effort. No matter how poorly Childress has coached — and his blunders are plentiful — it hasn’t impacted a single player’s ability to perform at a high level. Don’t kid yourself there.

“Do I always get along with my head coach, quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator? No,” Favre said. “Do I always agree with the plays that were called? No. Why should that factor in to me wanting to be the best player I can be?

“It is easy to point blame at this person and that person. To say the coach, coordinator, running back or quarterback is at fault is being a coward.”

Fans, take note.

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