The Minnesota Vikings signed head coach Brad Childress to a contract extension in November of 2009. At the time, the Vikings were 8-1 with a quarterback in Brett Favre(notes) who was having his best season in a 20-year career. That ride took Childress and his team just one Favre pick away from the Super Bowl, and greater things were expected in 2010. That's why the Vikings didn't re-tool an ageing roster, why Childress mortgaged what was left of his authority in the Favre issue by having three of the quarterback's teammates fly down to Mississippi to talk the indecisive superstar back on board, and why the Vikings traded a third-round pick to the New England Patriots in early October for Randy Moss(notes).
Halfway through the season, and just under a full year since that contract extension, Childress is as close to outright dismissal as any head coach in the league. Favre's play, exacerbated as it's been by injuries to himself and others, has been a complete disappointment. The formerly great front four is allowing opponent rushing yardage at a distressing rate, and Jared Allen(notes) hasn't recorded a sack since Week 2. Moss lasted a month before Childress cut him, essentially wasting a mid-round pick, and he did so without the full knowledge and approval of team owner Zygi Wilf. Recent reports indicate that it took the team an extra 24 hours to put Moss in the waiver wire because Wilf was debating whether to keep Moss and fire Childress.
He's not the only one with these thoughts. A "Fire Childress!" chant broke out at a Minnesota Timberwolves game on Friday night. Childress has said that he's aware he'll be hearing catcalls when the Vikings take the field against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, and some of that fan anger will also be reflective of the news that Childress and Percy Harvin(notes) got into an animated discussion last week during practice, which may be an extension of Childress' frustration with Harvin's migraine issues and inability to take the field at certain times. But Harvin averaged 15.1 yards per catch when Moss was his teammate, as opposed to 8.8 when he was not. The players are probably frustrated because the impression is that Childress jettisoned a productive player just to flaunt his own authority. And when I recently interviewed Keyshawn Johnson(notes) for a Shutdown Corner podcast that you'll have available very soon, Johnson came right out with it and called Childress "a tool."
In short, Childress has created a complete and total disaster in which his preferred authoritative style has been absolutely undercut by the ways in which he has kowtowed to Favre, his own questionable in-game decisions, and his inability to relate to his players at any level. People understand and appreciate the discipline brought to the field by people like Bill Belichick, because there's a purpose to everything. Half the time, you get the feeling that when Childress is throwing Favre under the bus for a bad game or calling Moss a "programmatic non-fit" after his release, it's about Childress making Childress look better, and the team is out of the equation. That's no way to run things.
If the Vikings lose to the Cardinals at home Sunday, and that's entirely possible, it wouldn't be surprising at all if Childress was shown the door -- just a year after inking a deal that would pay him between $4 million and $5 million per year. And unlike NFL player contracts, coach contracts are generally fully guaranteed -- which could leave Zygi Wilf paying Brad Childress somewhere in the low seven figures to get the heck away from his team.
Sad to say, most people in Minnesota would consider that a bargain these days.
- Brad Childress